Having spent three months licking their wounds, England will be desperate to bounce back from their Rugby World Cup Final defeat by winning the Grand Slam in the 2020 Six Nations.
The Red Rose were hammered by South Africa in Yokohama, seeing their dreams of winning the Webb Ellis Trophy crushed by the ruthless Springboks.
England had produced one of the greatest performances in their history to defeat New Zealand in the semi-finals. They ended the All Blacks’ reign at the top of the sport with a 19-7 triumph, but the final proved to be one game too far for Eddie Jones and his team.
They have had time to regroup though and will now turn their attention to conquering the Northern Hemisphere for the first time in three years.
The Red Rose are the favourites in the Six Nations 2020 odds at 8/13, being considered well ahead of Ireland at 4/1, while defending champions Wales come in at 11/2 at the time of writing.
Both Ireland and Wales are going through periods of transitions after the World Cup, as new coaches have taken to the reins after the departures of Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland respectively.
England have to capitalise on the uncertainty of their main rivals and are well stocked in talent, albeit there are a few injury concerns ahead of the tournament. Henry Slade is set to miss some, if not all, of the Six Nations after suffering an ankle injury. Eddie Jones is blessed with a great deal of talent in the backfield so it is not a devastating blow, although one that reduces his options with experience at the highest level.
Jones suggested that he was ready to make changes to his squad after the tournament even though most of his unit are still relatively young. Scrum-halves Ben Youngs and Willi Heinz are the only players over 30 among the backs, which could prompt a change at one of the most key positions. Youngs should be able to hold on to his spot, although Dan Spencer is on the rise, while Jack Maunder and Dan Robson may also come into contention.
Captain Owen Farrell and George Ford have the number 10 position locked down, while the rest of the backs are all quality players and were integral in England’s run to the final. Anthony Watson, Jonny May and Elliot Daly should retain their starting places along with Manu Tuilagi, while Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Nowell will be pushing hard for selection.
The forwards should see an element of change, but the back row looks set with the incredible talent of Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry. Lewis Ludlam will back them up, while Alex Dombrandt could come into the fold as another understudy. Kyle Sinckler’s importance to England’s front row was heightened in the final after he was forced off in the early stages of the contest. The scrum was bullied in his absence as Dan Cole’s age appeared to catch up with him. Cole could be poised for the exit, leaving Ellis Genge to potentially step up.
Maro Itoje remains England’s brightest star in the second row and is the envy of every other side in the world. He had a fine World Cup and will be looking to continue his form in the Six Nations. The three other locks in the squad are ageing slightly – starter Courtney Lawes impressed in Japan, but Jones could look for fresh options. Joel Kpoku could be worth consideration, although he has plenty of time to develop.
The Six Nations is a huge opportunity for England to lay down a marker for the next four years. They’re the favourites for a reason and must meet expectations with a dominant tournament given the talent of their squad and the rebuilding processes of their rivals.