The pick of England’s squad were rewarded for a fine two years by making it into Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions squad for the sensational tour of New Zealand earlier this summer. The three-match series saw players like Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly put themselves in the history books after a 1-1 draw.
Following a disappointing 2015 World Cup, Eddie Jones revitalised England and led them to back-to-back Six Nations Championships, with the Red Rose losing just once under the leadership of the charismatic Australian.
The form of England over the last 24 months saw the nucleus of Jones’ squad make it on the Lions tour, where Farrell, Itoje and Daly were just a number of English stars that replicated the form they’ve shown for their country against the All Blacks.
Jones’ side will be going in search of a hat-trick of Six Nations triumphs in early 2018, with the Red Rose favourites to lift the first trophy of the year, with the Sportsbet sportsbook offering odds of 17/20 offered for yet more English success.
Despite the challenge that Wales and Ireland – the only team to beat England during the Jones era – present, it is hard to look past the Red Rose for another Six Nations victory, particularly after the class part of their squad showed whilst on tour with the Lions this summer.
Farrell was particularly impressive for the Lions when he moved to inside-centre for the victory in the second test, the same position he has played for his country, along with George Ford at fly-half. That axis has given Jones success over the last two years and helps to bring the best out of Jonathan Joseph at outside-centre and the wing pairing of Daly and Anthony Watson, another two heroes from Gatland’s side.
The dynamic lock, Itoje, will want to carry on his progression for England as he continues his path to greatness following the tour of New Zealand this summer. Dylan Hartley, the English captain, will also have a point to prove following Gatland’s snub.
Whilst the elite were away with the Lions, Jones took his side to Argentina, where they recorded an impressive 2-0 series victory over the Pumas. Hartley led that side, whilst Ford excelled in the number 10 jersey, which will probably mean England continue to utilise Farrell as a second playmaker from 12.
That partnership has been a success in the last two Six Nations tournaments, whilst Gatland also deployed a similar tactic with the Lions, using Jonathan Sexton in Ford’s role. It allows England to use width in their attack, whilst taking some of the responsibility away from Ford, as Farrell runs the side from 12.
Wales and Ireland will be looking to stop what looks like a formidable England side in next year’s Six Nations, but Jones will once again be encouraging his side to continue their improvement on the way to Japan in 2019.
Despite a busy summer away with the Lions, Jones will have been encouraged by what he saw on the tour of New Zealand, with the confidence that his key players are on their way to greatness and ready to win a third consecutive Six Nations title.