2018 promises to be a very interesting year when it comes to international Test rugby.
Looking at the southern hemisphere, you have an All Blacks side who continue to show why they are the best team in world rugby but perhaps there is a chink in their armour which we have seen from their losses to Ireland, the British and Irish Lions and Australia.
The Wallabies themselves look to be an improved side, despite a mental weakness which was evident in their loss to England at Twickenham and the Springboks can only get better with Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber at the helm. Argentina have had a poor year but they always seem to get better as the World Cup approaches.
Looking at the northern hemisphere, Scotland could be dark horses for the Six Nations after some very impressive performances in November, while Ireland continue to look like one of the most well-coached sides in world rugby.
So then what about England? A clean sweep during November wasn’t without its critics, some took aim at their performance over Argentina and despite the scoreline, they were neck and neck with the Wallabies for most of the 80 minutes at Twickenham.
However, Will Greenwood, writing in his column for The Telegraph, believes that Eddie Jones’ side will be the number one ranked team in the world come to the end of 2018 and of course, that means toppling the All Blacks in November.
Greenwood cites England’s favourable Six Nations schedule i.e. hosting Ireland and Wales at Twickenham and what looks to be on paper a relatively straightforward task of taking on the Springboks over three Tests during the summer. So with there being a high potential for England to go into November with a 100% 2018 record, it sets up what will likely be a winner takes all clash for the world no.1 sport against the All Blacks.
They [England] need to use the advantage of playing Ireland and Wales at Twickenham – home turf – to create international momentum for a crack at the summit.
England’s summer tour to South Africa offers a huge opportunity to win 3-0 as they did in Australia in 2016.
Then the big one against the All Blacks. I think New Zealand and England will hold No 1 and 2 in the world rankings before they meet at Twickenham in November, not least because I think the Irish will lose a Test in Australia.
Greenwood also outlines what he predicts for the Premiership and Champions Cup for the rest of the season, all of which can be found below.
— Will Greenwood (@WillGreenwood) December 29, 2017