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Joe Schmidt’s Ireland make boldest statement on opening weekend | Andy Bull

Ireland’s resounding victory over South Africa gives them a claim on being Europe’s top side, while England and Wales laboured

A lot of stiff, sore bodies will be hauled into team meetings this Monday, as the coaches run their weekend debriefings after the first full round of the autumn internationals. The Irish will be feeling that much better about themselves than everyone else. Nothing soothes a player’s aches and pains quite like a famous victory, and their 38-3 win against South Africa was a resounding result, the statement performance of the weekend. The only time a European team have beaten South Africa by more than that was when England hammered them 53-3 in 2002. That was back when the side that went on to win the World Cup was in its pomp, and the Springboks played most of the game with 14 men because Jannes Labuschagne had been sent off.

Related: Rugby union: talking points from the first round of autumn internationals

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