England enter this season’s autumn internationals on the back of their best year since 2003.
A Six Nations grand slam and a whitewash of World Cup winners Australia Down Under has set Eddie Jones’ men the perfect platform to dominate the southern hemisphere next month. Given how far England have progressed since the 2015 World Cup debacle, is anything less than four wins a good return?
For England to have had a good end to the year, they must win four from four. It won’t be easy, but given the consummate ease with which New Zealand brushed aside their Rugby Championship rivals, to continue their ascent to challenge the All Blacks, the Red Rose has to make it 13 wins from 13 in 2016.
First up are South Africa, but the Boks look at their weakest for well over a decade. England’s recent record against the Springboks may be abysmal, but they now have sufficient steel in the pack to front up against the usually overpowering Bok forwards.
Argentina are improving, but in transition. For the past two years they have been developing a much more fluid style, but their accuracy let them down significantly in their final two games of the Rugby Championship. In Buenos Aires or Salta they would be a match for England, but at Twickenham, Dylan Hartley and co. must be confident.
Fiji are Fiji – the ultimate banana skin test to get through, but not serious challengers. It would not be a surprise if Jones shuffled his pack for this one and gave game time to Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes. Freshening the team with players that have a point to prove will see England home against the islanders.
Australia are last, and despite the historic 3-0 series win in June, this is by far the toughest fixture England have this autumn. Beware the wounded Wallaby. Their record at Twickenham is excellent and this crop of players know the place better than many of the England team.
They played their last five World Cup games at HQ and are extremely comfortable in south west London. They stay at the same hotel, their routine is in place, they have a home away from home. And lest we forget, they trashed England there last time.
England’s main concern will be on the injury front. Can they secure four wins with a debilitated squad? Already three flankers (James Haskell, Jack Clifford and Sam Jones), two wingers (Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell) and Manu Tuilagi are confirmed absentees. Key men Dylan Hartley and Owen Farrell are also in the recovery room.
— Rugby Tonight (@RugbyTonight) October 5, 2016
The answer is that England should still clean sweep. Australia are their most likely conquerors, but if England take on the Wallabies having won for the past three weeks, they ought to be sufficiently galvanised to finish the job.
Success this autumn for England has to be four wins, especially as Jones is hell-bent on chasing down the All Blacks. However unlikely that might seem, England need to show New Zealand a statement of intent. After all, it’s what the Kiwis do every time.
Daniel Rey, Pundit Arena
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Read More About: 2015 rugby world cup, 2016 six nations, All Blacks, argentina rugby, Australia at Twickenham, australia rugby, dylan hartley, eddie jones, England Grand Slam, england rugby, England whitewash Australia 3-0, fiji rugby, new zealand rugby, northern hemisphere, South Africa rugby weak, southern hemisphere rugby, twickenham