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Why England can dominate the Six Nations and win the World Cup

Ben Darvill 28 Jan 2019

Can England return to Grand Slam winning ways in 2019 and set themselves up perfectly for their World Cup campaign in 2019? 

So here it is, judgement for Eddie Jones and his England side. For four years, the Australian has been building his side for the showpiece event in Japan, and to say it has all been leading up to this would be an understatement. However, it is not all solely about the World Cup this year, with the Six Nations comprising something of an appetiser before the biggest tournament in rugby, giving every side in the competition a chance to fine tune their squads, while the winners will come out of the tournament feeling pretty good about their chances of victory in Japan if they can dominate in Europe. 



READ MORE: 5 best outright bets for the 2019 Six Nations 

READ MORE: Are Wales the real deal this year in the Six Nations and the World Cup?

READ MORE: Can Ireland secure back-to-back Grand Slams and a World Cup triumph? 

READ MORE: Why France, Scotland and Italy face another year of pain in the Six Nations and World Cup


Here, we outline the three reasons why we think that England can dominate in the Six Nations and the World Cup, with the Red Rose looking to bounce back from a year in which they were a long way below par. 


1) An array of options

The England team. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

It has not ever been a secret that England have a lot of options when it comes to their squad. In 2015, England had a decent squad, allowing Stuart Lancaster to pick a team that should have been far better than they were as they fell out of their own tournament at the group-stages in an embarrassing debacle that cost Lancaster his job.

Jones was installed following this horrendous campaign and he has had an immediate effect, helping England to rise after they had slipped down to eighth in the world rankings following their group-stage exit. In this time, Jones has looked to test out a lot of different talent which may have seen chopping and changing that is not at all ideal at the time, but it has at least resulted in the fact that the group of players with international experience has been vastly increased, while England now know which players can transfer their good form at club level onto the international stage. 

This swelling of the ranks may mean that players will miss out and Jones will take flack for that, but he is better off being in a situation in which he is criticised for leaving out players as he has so many strong options to choose from rather than having to select uncapped players that have no international experience, bringing them into the pressure situation of a World Cup as their first experience of English rugby. 

For the Six Nations, a number of what some may call ‘certain-starters’ or perhaps ‘certain-squad members’ have been left out, and this is testament to Jones’ selection policy and willingness to find the best players that he feels will carry out his game plan as precisely as possible. 

Among the list of absentees from the Six Nations’ squad include captain (or should we say co-captain) Dylan Hartley due to injury, Exeter Chiefs’ prop Alex Hepburn, Charlie Ewels, Sam Underhill, Zach Mercer, Danny Care, Richard Wigglesworth, Danny Cipriani, Alex Lozowski, Nathan Earle and Alex Goode. All of the afore-mentioned players will feel very hard done by to miss out on the squad, and we have sympathy for them all, although there is definitely more going to some than others. Care is one we are unsure of as he has proven himself to be a very dangerous sub or ‘finisher’ as Jones calls them, especially when England need a score to get in front or kill a game off, with Care superb at picking the right pass or wriggling around the fringes of the ruck and breaking free, making yards for the side or scoring points. Cipriani seems to be a player that Jones just does not trust, and while he can open up a defence with a pin-point kick or raking flat pass, this does not seem to be enough, and the fact he has been left out of the Six Nations’ squad will surely spell the end of his World Cup dream. Goode and Hepburn will be hurt by this selection as the Saracens’ full-back and Exeter prop respectively have starred for the Premiership’s top two this season. It seems as though Goode is not trusted at the back for whatever reason as Mike Brown has been recalled, a contentious decision according to some, instead of him, while Hepburn is the first choice for the Exeter Chiefs and constantly made it into the England squad recently, and the fact he has been completely omitted has confused many.

However, as previously stated, the huge choice that Jones has created for himself gives him an incredible array of talent to choose from, but it will also ensure that there are some feeling they have been hard-done by, with fans of clubs that watch these players week-in, week-out feeing exactly the same. 

Ultimately, Jones can only select the players that he feels have displayed to him at their clubs and in training that they can carry out his plan, and while someone like Cipriani can muster up a moment of utter magic, Jones cannot gamble on a pass coming off one in 10 times over a player that will give him exactly what he wants nine out of those 10 times.  


2) Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell 

England Coach Eddie Jones and Captain Owen Farrell. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

As coach and captain go, England have a very strong pairing. Eddie Jones is no stranger to the top of the rugby world, and his experience at the World Cup will be vital for an England side that are desperate to become the first team since Sir Clive Woodward’s men in 2003 to deny the southern-hemisphere the World Cup trophy, crushing New Zealand’s hopes of clinching a third-straight title. 

Jones has a whole host of experience at the World Cup, some very bad, and some very good. Admittedly, the bad came in a loss in the final at the tournament in 2003, where Jones watched on as Jonny Wilkinson fired over that famous drop goal to clinch the trophy in a pulsating 20-17 win for the Red Rose. Losing in the final of your own tournament is probably about as crushing as it gets, to come so close and end so far from eternal glory. The 2007 tournament came around and Jones was this time an assistant coach for South Africa, and he would have his revenge on England as the Springboks clinched a 15-6 victory over the Red Rose to end their hopes of defending their crown in a match that was the exact opposite of South Africa’s easy 36-0 win over the England in the group stage. 

The next experience of the Rugby World Cup for Jones came in 2015 as he led Japan to one of the greatest shocks in sporting history, and possibly the biggest result in rugby as Japan defeated the might of South Africa 34-32 with a last-gasp try to send the watching fans from Japan and the neutrals into ecstasy as South Africa and the rest of the rugby world watched out in shock and disbelief. It was perhaps this strong campaign in 2015, where Japan finished in third in their group with three wins and 12 points, ahead of the likes of Samoa and the United States, that saw Jones installed as England coach, and this experience across the World Cups has paid dividends, with England growing year on year. 

Clearly they have a wealth of experience off the field, while on the field England are able to turn to the exceptional talent of Owen Farrell. The Saracens star has been a mainstay of the team for years now and he possesses everything that England need in a fly-half and more. His kicking is unerringly accurate, with his ability to dissect the posts vital in knock-out rugby, his size and general defensive ability mean he is not a fly-half that can be targeted by the opposition centres as a weak link, with Farrell relishing a physical battle, while he is no stranger to a perfectly flat pass or deft offload to put a teammate into space. However, what sets Farrell apart from many other number 10’s in today’s game is his drive to win. Against South Africa in the autumn, Farrell may have been lucky to escape giving away a penalty in the 84th minute of the match with England 12-11 up as he put in a big hit on Andre Esterhuizen that seemed to be a no-arms tackle, only for the referee to judge it a fair hit. While this challenge could have cost England the win, it was a testament to Farrell’s fitness and determination that after 84 minutes of incredibly tight and physical rugby, he was still looking to go in with tat game-winning hit, and that is exactly what he achieved. With the referee blowing the final whistle, the jubilation was evident on Farrell’s face as he punched the air and roared in delight at the victory. 

At club level, Farrell has continually achieved highly with Saracens, with European Cups and domestic triumphs underlining his while the fact he has played a lot of knock-out rugby will only stand him in good stead for the games to come. 

What is interesting about Farrell is the fact that he has seamlessly switched from playing at 12 for England back to 10. Jones has utilised George Ford at fly-half for his creative ability whilst keeping the leader and fantastic manager of the game in Farrell at centre to great effect. However, teams seem to have figured out how best to counter this tactic, and Ford has since been dropped with Farrell switching back to his preferred position. Dropping Farrell in favour of Ford was never really an option as, while the latter is a very talented player, Farrell comes under the bracket of world class and he is in the top-three fly-halves in the world at the moment, behind the likes of Johnny Sexton and Beauden Barrett. Now, with Hartley ruled out of the Six Nations due to injury which could result in the hooker losing his place in the squad for the World Cup if his replacements really step up, Farrell, injury permitting, will be the man leading England forward, with the fly-half England’s best player. 


3) Learning from their mistakes 

Sam Burgess (L) and Chris Robshaw of England during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

A team is only able to continually grow if they are able to learn from their mistakes. England made a lot of errors in the build-up and during the 2015 World Cup, with the side ultimately eliminated at the group-stages. The name Sam Burgess springs to mind as Lancaster selected the Rugby League convert after minimal time in Union and he became something of a scapegoat. There is no need to discuss the Lancaster and Burgess error as the two were written about enough all those years ago, but suffice to say, it was exactly this sort of mismanagement that hurt England going forward. 

For Jones then, it was vital that he attempted to create his idea squad with time to spare, and then he could build around it, adding and subtracting where he saw fit, with the idea discussed above about Jones’ selection policy something that he has done well. 

Secondly, better game management is vital. Against Wales in the group-stages, England should have beaten their rivals who were ravaged by injury, but they allowed Wales to steal the lead as Gareth Davies scored late on to go with Dan Biggar’s 23 points. However, England could and probably should have taken a draw late-on as a shot at goal beckoned, only for Chris Robshaw to decide to kick for the corner and the win, with England fans in need of no reminder about how things ended.

This year, things have to be different, and players need to be aware of permutations in the table in both the Six Nations and the World Cup, bearing in mind that sometimes securing a definite draw is better than gambling on a win as that could have saved England in the 2015 World Cup. England’s fans can only hope that Jones has drilled into his players to be aware of what is going on in the game and in the bigger picture, with that same embarrassment costing his predecessor his job. 

Worryingly for England though is their awful 2018. The side finished in fifth in the Six Nations last season as only Italy ended with less points, while they were beaten 2-1 in South Africa in a series they should have won after creating sizeable leads in the first-half of both their defeats. This sandwiched a resounding 63-45 loss to the Barbarians in May as England’s form took a nosedive. More positive for the Red Rose was their campaign in the autumn internationals. Only a narrow loss to world champions New Zealand was able to blight their record, with wins over South Africa, Japan and Australia seeing the side return to form at the right time. Of course, there were still visible cracks in their armour, but winning is the most important thing in a World Cup year, and they proved they could do this as 2018 drew to a close. 

The question really must be; can England rekindle their Grand Slam winning form of 2016 and deny the likes of Ireland and Wales in the Six Nations, before turning their attention to southern giants South Africa, Australia, and worst of all, New Zealand?

The influence of Eddie Jones will be vital going forward, and instead of looking to down England in a final, he will be desperate to lead them to victory in Japan. Who knows what this year holds for England, but if they can start off with a Championship victory or perhaps even a Grand Slam triumph in the Six Nations, who knows where they could go. Perhaps this can lead to Farrell’s own Wilkinson moment, with this reference probably as much of a reason as we need to give you a chance to see that game and the drop goal for the 100,000th time. 




*Odds correct on 25/1/2019


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Why England can dominate the Six Nations and win the World Cup

England come into 2019 on a decent run of form after a torrid start to the year, and Eddie Jones will hope domination in the Six Nations can see his side peaking at the right time for the World Cup in Japan

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