|"Eng v Scot 3/2/07 samiire’s photos" (CC BY 2.0) by Unofficial England Rugby|
England have enjoyed a resurgence since the arrival of Eddie Jones as coach following their failure at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The Red Rose became the first host nation not to qualify for the knockout phase of the tournament following their defeats to Wales and Australia, resulting in the departure of Stuart Lancaster.
Jones immediately brought a new energy and tenacity to the team, which culminated in their triumph at the Six Nations, clinching the Grand Slam for the first time since 2003.
England and Jones arrived in Australia under scrutiny due to their performance at the World Cup, while the 56-year-old carried a portion of the blame for the Wallabies’ defeat to the Red Rose on home soil in 2003, losing the Web Ellis trophy to the old enemy. The result of the series would have greatly satisfied both coach and his side as they secured their first series win in Australia, completing a historic whitewash in a 44-40 victory in the final Test in Sydney.
England are currently second in the world rankings behind New Zealand due to their improvement under Jones, but will be determined to solidify that position in the Autumn Internationals and beyond at the start of 2017 in the defence of their Six Nations crown. In the latest betting odds the Red Rose are backed at 6/5 to win the title for the second year on the bounce.
Jones’ men have a good chance to remain one of the world’s top sides for a long time due to the quality of the young players in their squad.
The best of the lot could be rising star Maro Itoje in the second row. The Saracens man has been a force since making his debut against Italy at the start of the Six Nations. His ability at the breakdown and the lineout have turned England into a physically dominant unit.
At the age of just 21, Itoje will only improve for Jones’ men, which is a sobering thought for England’s opponents. The lock could also be a viewed as a long-term replacement for Dylan Hartley as captain, a measure of how much has he impressed since dislodging Joe Launchbury at the start of 2016.
|"Owen Farrell" (CC BY 2.0) by Fearless Fred|
In the backfield, the Red Rose are blessed with a number of talented playmakers, but Owen Farrell’s maturation under Jones was one of the sparks in England’s series win Down Under. The 25-year-old was on the spot with seemingly every kick, while his play with the ball was equally impressive.
Should the Saracens man display a strong level of consistency, he and his team-mates will continue to rack up the points given the talent around him. Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Marland Yarde, Jack Nowell and Mike Brown are all deadly attacking players, and that’s without mentioning the promise of Henry Slade and Elliot Daly along with the returning Manu Tuilagi.
The talent was there for England in the 2015 World Cup, but Lancaster failed to harness their potential. However, with the right coach now at the helm for the Red Rose they can go on to be a force in the international stage and perhaps even rival the fearsome All Blacks.