The Northern Hemisphere, shamed by the lack of a single semi-finalist at Rugby World Cup 2015, restored much lost pride during the November internationals with a clean sweep of wins achieved against South Africa and Argentina and, of course, the famous win for Ireland over the All Blacks in Chicago all adding up to a pretty decent month for Europe's elite.

That said, South Africa are at their lowest ebb since they were welcomed back into the international fold over two decades ago, while the travel-weary Pumas have circumnavigated the globe five times over in the last 12 months, so it’s debatable how much can be read into those triumphs.

The acid test will come next year when the British and Irish Lions travel to New Zealand to take on an All Blacks side who recently celebrated their seventh anniversary as the world's number one ranked team.

The Lions haven't won a series in the Land of the Long White Cloud since 1971, and bet365 believe the long wait for success will continue, quoting the All Blacks as short as 2/9 to send the visitors packing. The Lions are available at 100/30.

Any ill wind from New Zealand’s 40-29 loss to Ireland in Chicago blew itself out within a week, the All Blacks responding to the shock defeat with a crushing win against Italy and then exacting revenge on the Irish seven days later in their own backyard in Dublin.

Any notion that the loss in America has made the All Blacks any less invincible has been dismissed by John Dawes, the legendary Welsh flanker who led the Lions to that famous series victory in 1971.

“To be honest, I don’t know how that happened,” he said during his induction into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame. “You need a lot of luck, that’s what you need."

“The All Blacks never play badly. If you’re going to beat them, you’ve got to take the game to them, not just hope it will happen. At the end of the match, if you’ve done it, it is one of the greatest feelings you’ll have because they are that good. The Lions will do well to win a Test.”

As things stand, all-conquering England and Ireland are likely to form the bulk of the touring party although, with Wales' Warren Gatland (pictured) in charge as head coach, the principality will no doubt be well-served too, when it comes to the final make-up of the squad.

The All Blacks never play badly. If you’re going to beat them, you’ve got to take the game to them, not just hope it will happen.

England and Ireland emerged from the autumn with the most credit in the bank, while it was a largely underwhelming campaign for Wales under caretaker head coach Rob Howley, narrow wins over Argentina and Japan and a final weekend victory over the Springboks not doing much to cover their inadequacies in attack.

Unsurprisingly, bet365 has England and Ireland marked down as favourites for the 2017 Six Nations. England are odds on, at 4/5, while Ireland, who welcome England to the Emerald Isle, on St Patrick’s weekend of all weekends, are next in the betting at 11/4.

What a finish to the Championship that should be!

Sportsta Contributor

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