Six Nations 2018 Preview: England

Can England make it three-in-a-row?

Depending on who you ask, England are either favourites to win this year’s Six Nations, or they haven’t a hope. The bookies are in line with the former, while head coach Eddie Jones has led us to believe it’s the latter.

If you ask us, England will once again be right up there come March 17. They’ve lost just one game under Eddie Jones since the Australian took over, and with back-to-back Six Nations under their belt, including one Grand Slam, they’re rightly favourites with the bookies.

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Up first it’s a trip to Rome to take on Italy. Conor O’Shea will be unable to deploy his ruck tactics this year, but no doubt he’ll have a few tricks up his sleeve. Sadly, that won’t be enough, and you can expect a try-bonus win for the Red Rose, regardless of who’s missing.

Next it’s a visit of Wales to Twickenham. Warren Gatland probably has the worst injury list of all the nations this year, and looks set to struggle. That being said, there’s a huge opportunity there for some young talent to shine. England will win, but not with a try-bonus if you ask us.

After the break is when things get tricky. England will at this stage will hope to have a lot of their injured stars back, but Scotland should be motoring by then. Gregor Townsend’s men are also a different animal at Murrayfield. An upset could most definitely be on the cards here.

The penultimate weekend sees Jones’ men travel to Paris to take on France. As with most years, we really don’t know what kind of France team will show up at the Six Nations, especially considering they have a new coaching ticket. Expect a win for England, but the size of that win depends on how the next few weeks go.

Finally it’s the clash of titans on Paddy’s Day. England vs Ireland at Twickenham. The only team to have defeated England under Jones’ reign. Will it be winner take all? We thought that last year and look what happened. This game may end up being for the championship, but something tells us there will be no Grand Slam on the line for either team.

Key player: Owen Farrell

The current European Player of the Year will be at the centre of almost everything England does. We still reckon he’s a better ten than he is an inside centre, but either way he will control the backline. His boot will also play a huge role, especially considering they can’t rely on Elliot Daly and his monster penalties this year.

 

Fixtures

  • Italy – Stadio Olimpico – Sunday, February 4 – 3pm (GMT)
  • Wales – Twickenham Stadium – Saturday, February 10 – 4.45pm (GMT)
  • Scotland – Murrayfield Stadium – Saturday, February 24 – 4.45pm (GMT)
  • France – Stade de France – Saturday, March 10 – 4.45pm (GMT)
  • Ireland – Twickenham Stadium – Saturday, March 17 – 2.45pm (GMT)

England’s 36-man squad for the 2018 Six Nations:

Backs
Mike Brown (Harlequins), Nathan Earle (Saracens)*, Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints)*, Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Danny Care (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors), Marcus Smith (Harlequins)* **, Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

Forwards
Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons)*, James Haskell (Wasps), Nick Isiekwe (Saracens), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby)*, Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs), Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), Lewis Boyce (Harlequins)*, Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby)*, Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs)*, Joe Marler (Harlequins), Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs).

Uncapped *
Apprentice player **