After losing their opening Six Nations match against France, you could forgive England for playing with some caution, as they looked to make amends for back-to-back defeats in major competitions. The manner in which they surrendered to the French in the first half of their clash in the pouring Parisian rain would have given head coach Eddie Jones some cause for concern – with England failing to record any points going in at the break. Prior to the match, Jones had talked of unleashing a brutal physicality upon a vastly young and inexperienced France side and he was left to eat his words – although his Red Roses came out and gave it a good go in the second half. The damage was already done and England limped over to the finish line with a 24-17 defeat to their name – hardly the brightest of starts.
Yet England continue to be favoured for the Championship in Guinness Six Nations betting odds, and until last weekend had been the outright favourite, despite their early slip. France now are the best bet, with three wins out of the three thus far, and the hopes of a Grand Slam very much in their sights. It was exactly a decade ago, in 2010 when the French managed a clean-sweep of victories at the Six Nations – what a wonderful prospect for the side with an average age of 24, and with very few caps to their name.
However, since their opening day defeat, England have turned a corner. They may not be showing the same formidable form and attacking exploits as they did at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, but they’ve picked up two wins, most recently ending Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes at Twickenham.
A low-scoring win against Scotland at Murrayfield in round two was enough for England to finally record some points. Storm Ciara played havoc with conditions, ensuring the game was nowhere near as exciting as the 38-38 draw the two sides played out the previous year of the Championship. The heavy rain and high winds caused countless errors and it was a pretty turgid affair – not that Jones minded – and on reflection, England probably deserved the win.
It was a better performance at Twickenham against Ireland, who were masters of their own downfall. Defensive errors cost the men in green dearly during the first half, as England built up a commanding lead, finally showing some of their World Cup form in the process. The game was effectively over before Ireland woke up and fought back, getting points on the board but to no avail. The win saw England leapfrog Ireland into second, both teams on nine points from three matches.
Next up for England, it’s Wales at Twickenham. The Red Dragons will be looking to overcome their most recent defeat to France, but injuries are stacking up against them. England will be jubilant after their win against Ireland, and will surely have home advantage in their favour. A win would certainly keep their dream of the Championship alive, going in to the final round of games.
A trip to Rome will conclude this year’s Six Nations campaign, and the Azzurri have lost all three of their matches to date – failing to record points in two of them. Of course, the tournament could well be thrown into turmoil, with the recent coronavirus threatening to postpone all manner of sporting events, not least the rugby Championship – despite the main threat being in northern Italy. In fact, Ireland’s clash against Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin has already been postponed, and while it’s the first fixture to fall, it may not be the last.
Although two wins could well be enough to see England over the line to win this year’s Six Nations, they’ll be looking over their shoulder to Ireland and obviously ahead to table-toppers France. Jones’ side will be reliant on France to drop points and Les Bleustravel to Murrayfield to face Scotland, before tying things up against Ireland. The final match could well be where the Championship is won or lost.