Shôn Douglas previews England Rugby ahead the 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship for Sport Talk. We Love Sport have teamed up with tournament sponsors Guinness to bring you complimentary pints during the championship – to redeem simply download the We Love Sport app.
The World Cup runners up England come into the 2020 campaign with a settled squad but with an elephant in the room the size of Saracens’ wage bill!
Eddie Jones will be hoping the Six Nations provides the Saracens players in the squad with a welcome distraction from their club’s off field problems, however there will need to be some frank exchanges to clear the air before kick-off against France in Paris on Sunday 2 February.
At the press launch it was hardly surprising that captain and Saracen Owen Farrell was asked about the impact of the domestic situation, but England have dealt with media scrutiny before not least after the 2015 World Cup and again over Eddie Jones’ position prior to Japan 2019.
8 debuts at the Championship
Jones has brought eight uncapped players into the squad which, compared to other teams, is largely settled – with 22 of the players having featured in the World Cup and a settled backroom staff. The loss of Billy Vunipola to a broken arm just before the tournament is a huge blow for the team, and with no out and out number eight in the squad to replace him, it will be interesting to see what Jones does. Breaking up the Tom Curry/Sam Underhill dynamic would be madness considering their telepathic partnership and the inexperience of Lewis Ludlam, Ted Hill and Ben Earl may see a late phone call to Mark Wilson or Nathan Hughes.
Front rowers Mako Vunipola, Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler proved that they are more than just excellent players in the loose during the World Cup, standing up to all comers and getting the right side of the referees in most of the games. It’ll be important for Sinckler to keep his cool in the face of likely wind ups from Irish and Welsh opposite numbers, but if he lets his ability do the talking then he will be a massive part of England’s game plan.
In the backs England are blessed with strength in depth, even with Jack Nowell and Henry Slade absent through injury. A fully fit Manu Tuilagi and Anthony Watson will give opponents a torrid time, but uncapped Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley might be the man to make the biggest impact if given the chance.
Last year’s opener against favourites Ireland in Dublin set the stall out early doors for England and a similar performance against France will be needed to get the focus back on the pitch. The historic semi-final victory over the All Blacks in Japan was another one of those all or nothing performances that paid off, but ultimately led to them coming unstuck in the final.
If England can hit the ground running and maintain that momentum throughout then they have the personnel to win the Six Nations, if not the Grand Slam – but you wouldn’t rule out a clean sweep with games against Ireland and Wales at Twickenham and three “easier” away fixtures.
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