Recently, the Six Nations concluded, with conformation of England’s victory established after the final round of fixtures. Whilst the result versus Ireland was the first time England, during Eddie Jones’ tenure, were on the receiving end of the score line, the trophy had already been attained prior to the fixture, perhaps highlighting the quality England seemed to possess, as they managed to achieve the necessary points tally with time to spare. Having now won consecutive Six Nations, it seems Eddie Jones has discovered his favoured fifteen, and if he may utilise the result versus Ireland similarly on the same precedent to which he utilises the experiences from winning the tournament, England may ultimately be considered amongst the favourites for the 2019 World Cup.
England’s opening match saw them paired with France, a tie in which England’s superior ranking may have provided dividends. Whilst England did indeed conclude the match the victors, France seemed to play at a high standard, requiring the hosts to elevate both their performances and desire for victory, traits deemed pivotal in their quest for the title. Victories over Wales and Italy followed, and with the other matches resulting in a smattering of victories across the board, England’s win versus Scotland, in which seven tries were scored, including a hat-trick for Jonathon Joseph and a brace for Danny Care, enabling both to conclude the tournament as joint-top try scorers, confirmed a consecutive Six Nations in the penultimate game. Whilst the predominant praise may occur due to this tournament victory, the outcome which may impact England superiorly might be their performance under the newly implemented points system; the 2017 tournament trialled the bonus point system common to most other professional rugby union tournaments, and this triumph highlights the team’s adaptability.
With the tournament now concluded, there seems to be an opportunity for Eddie Jones’ side to reflect, and ultimately aim to utilise, their performance across the five fixtures. England recorded tries in four fixtures, highlighting the credentials their backline seem to possess, whilst simultaneously amassing multiple records, most notably during their title-winning tie. The 61 points scored is the most ever recorded versus Scotland, and their 40-point margin equalled their previous largest winning margin. This, coupled with England’s 11th consecutive Six Nations victory surpassing the championship record, seems to reiterate England’s position as the most accomplished country in the tournament. Yet, it may be most important for Jones to focus his attention on the result with Ireland, in which the hosts emerged victorious via a 12-9 score line, becoming the first team to win versus England since Jones’ appointment. As such, Jones may be faced with a challenge for the first time in his tenure, yet this may be a challenge he relishes, as he may now showcase his tactical nous and philosophical flexibility by acting as the catalyst in England returning to winning ways.
Whilst the men’s team may take precedence, the England Women and U20 sides also attained the trophy, enabling a clean sweep for England. England Women boasted credentials which may have enabled them to be referred to as pre-tournament favourites, and 63-0 and 64-0 victories proved the side possessed the capabilities to perform consistently. Similarly, the U20s side amassed five victories, showcasing the reasoning as to why they are World champions. It may be the U20’s performance which may be the focus for the men’s side, as it seems the high standard in which they performed may reiterate the suggestion there might be young players prepared to replicate their form on the full international stage.
Ultimately, the tournament may be referred to as a success for England, as the men’s team equalled the consecutive win record in test matches with 18 victories, whilst the Women’s and U20s sides won the Grand Slam. As such, it seems the nation possesses accomplished players across all categories, the majority of whom may be capable of becoming capped as full internationals. Yet, whilst Eddie Jones’ side seem to have accomplished multiple records throughout his tenure, there seems to be other achievements available to attain, providing England with short, and long-term, goals.
How may Eddie Jones adapt his philosophy in order to ensure England may be amongst the favourites for the World Cup?