Global Rugby
The winners and losers
ESPN Staff
June 27, 2012
Scotland skipper Ross Ford arrives back in Edinburgh, Edinburgh Airport, Scotland, June 26, 2012
Ross Ford clutches the Hopetoun Cup which they earned after beating Australia © PA Photos

With the dust settling on the northern hemisphere nations' foray below the equator, ESPNscrum casts an eye over those who have prospered from the tour and those who have arrived back at their respective airports in a worse state than when they left.

Five winners:

They swept all before them in their three match tour as they downed Australia, Fiji and Samoa - not bad for a side that finished the Six Nations holding the wooden spoon. Instead of the spoon, Ford arrived back at Edinburgh clutching a rather attractive glass trophy. On the pitch, the team showed impressive unity, no more so that in the dying embers of their match with Samoa when Rob Harley crossed for the score that took the game.

Elsewhere, notable mentions have to be given to Euan Murray, who was integral in their heroic win over the Wallabies, and Greig Laidlaw, who booted them to victory on that now famous day. And Andy Robinson can also take heart from the fact that this was a side void of Kelly Brown, Allan Jacobsen and Jim Hamilton, which gave other players in the squad valuable Test experience.

Danny Care
The England scrum-half has endured a torrid year. He missed the World Cup due to injury and then was exiled from the squad during the 2012 Six Nations due to off-field troubles. But he reacted in the best possible way. He finished the Aviva Premiership season clutching that competition's trophy and continued in the same vein when he journeyed to South Africa. He had to bide his time for a Test start but when Ben Youngs picked up a shoulder injury in the second Test against the Boks, Stuart Lancaster turned to Care to play in the third. He was sublime as he scored England's sole try and even picked up the man of the match award from the host broadcasters.

All Blacks fly-halves
Gone are the days when New Zealand panics whenever Dan Carter lies stricken. Aaron Cruden's 23 minute cameo against Ireland in the third Test was enough to show that they have a very special player as back up to Carter - or to even challenge the magician for the fly-half berth. Cruden was sensational as he offloaded, made darting runs and completely destroyed Ireland's defence. Then injury struck. Panic? Not a bit of it. Beauden Barrett came on for his debut and continued where Cruden left off. No longer will the All Blacks have to call upon fly-halves who are fishing for whitebait to fill a void; they have two youngsters who are very special. And then there's that man Carter.

Berrick Barnes
Quade Cooper? Who? Berrick Barnes was world class in Australia's three Tests against Wales. Fiendishly accurate with the boot and always causing difficulties for the Welsh defence with his flat passing and seamless connection with Will Genia at half-back. There's no doubting the immense talent of Cooper, but if the Wallabies are serious about beating the Lions next year, then they must start Barnes at fly-half. The Boks had a firing Morne Steyn back in 2009 and Barnes could offer the same for Australia next year. And all this from a man who came close to calling time on his career last year due to concussion.

British & Irish Lions
With the tour to Australia just one year away, Alan Irvine and the rest of his management staff will have been pleased to see many of the potential Lions playing well. Leigh Halfpenny stuck his hand up as someone who could play a part in the three Tests while the home nations did not shirk the challenge of the front-row on any occasion. They have a wealth of options throughout the ranks, as shown through our Lions XV.

Notable mention: Fergberger - The main port of call for sustinance in Queenstown, the joint even got a mention from Brian O'Driscoll in his post-match interview after playing in his side's 60-0 demolition at the hands of the All Blacks.

Five losers:

Ireland coach Declan Kidney talks to the media, Ireland press conference, Fitzpatrick Hotel, Dalkey, Ireland, March 10, 2010
Declan Kidney will face some awkward questions after their poor showing in the southern hemisphere © PA Photos

Declan Kidney
Where now for the Irish boss? He witnessed his side coming close to a historic win over the All Blacks in their second match of their three game tour but they eventually fell 22-19 thanks to Dan Carter's last-gasp drop-goal. There was some hope in the emerald isle that they may follow up this performance in the next Test and go one better, but instead they were absolutely hammered and suffered the worst loss in their history.

Kidney's reliance on the old guard has been questioned in the past and a few selection choices raised eyebrows - none more so than Paddy Wallace's inclusion for the third Test after travelling across the world a matter of days before. Kidney also faces the awkward question of why he can't translate Ireland's superb domestic form in the Heineken Cup onto the international stage. The autumn Tests will potentially be do or die for him and his coaching team.

Rhys Priestland
The darling of Wales during the 2011 World Cup, but nearly 12 months later and Priestland is struggling. Against Australia, gone were his confident darts from his own 22 and accurate kicking from hand. He was completely outshone by Leigh Halfpenny, who came out of the tour with his stock at an all time high, on the kicking front. Priestland's place is now under threat ahead of the autumn internationals with James Hook breathing down his neck, and Dan Biggar looking to show the coaches that he should have been included on the tour to Australia. There is no doubt that he has huge ability, but the Scarlets and Wales alike will be hoping that he finds his form again sooner rather than later.

The Officials
There were some dubious calls throughout the June Tests with Nigel Owens at the forefront of the criticism for his handling of Ireland's second Test against New Zealand. The infamous decision to award New Zealand a penalty with five minutes left when the Ireland scrum was powering forward baffled many, including Liam Toland who vented his criticism in an article for the Irish Times - which Owens responded to on Twitter. Elsewhere, Steve Walsh, as touch judge, missed the ball going straight through England's scrum for Willem Alberts' score in the second Test between South Africa and England. Craig Joubert also came in for criticism for his whistle-happy officiating of Wales' third Test with Australia where Wales conceded 14 penalties and the Wallabies 12.

New Zealand and Australia
Scotland showed up the rugby superpowers when they took in Tests in both Fiji and Samoa. New Zealand have never toured to the Pacific Isles and with Australia also within short-haul flying distance, it is an embarrassment that neither of the giants of world rugby have travelled to take on other teams on their doorstep. Scotland have set the trend by making the trip and it's now time for others to follow suit.

Morne Steyn
The Springboks fly-half had a horror show against England in the third Test as he missed kickable penalty after kickable penalty. Not what you need from your No. 1 place kicker on the eve of the inaugural Rugby Championship. Heyneke Meyer now faces a big decision over his half-back with Ruan Pienaar possessing the ability to step in if needs, while Elton Jantjies is one of the rising stars on the South African rugby scene. Meyer is hopeful that Steyn will be able to refind his form prior to the tournament but he is playing like a shadow of the man we saw in action back in 2009.

Notable mention: Joe Ansbro: He played well on the field but his decision to jump above his team-mates when celebrating Scotland's win over Australia backfired when he found himself connecting foreheads with Alasdair Strokosch. Ansbro came off worse - and missed Scotland's game against Fiji as a result.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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