It would be fair to say that being a fan of England rugby has been difficult in recent years. Hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup should have been a joyous occasion for the nation, but instead, the squad left the competition after the pool stages – embarrassing.
Since that dreadful competition, Eddie Jones has stood at the helm, guiding the team through what has been an impressive four years. Jones had previously been the tactical coach for South Africa who went on to win the 2007 World Cup under his guidance. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Red Roses, but things are starting to look bright on the horizon. Let’s take a look at 2019’s activities and how they position England for 2020.
2019 Six Nations Championship
In round one against Ireland, the Red Roses went in at the halfway point leading by seven points, but it wouldn’t be enough to relax. They knew they needed to step up a gear and did to go on and win the game 32-20. The victory came as a shock as to fans, Ireland were ranked second in the world at the time, with England in fourth, it was an unlikely win.
During round two, England showed strength once more by defeating France 44-8. After 70 seconds, England had managed to put points on the board, but they didn’t stop there. Six tries in total, with three coming from Jonny May, meant England walked away from Twickenham with a mammoth win.
Round three took a turn for the worst when Wales defeated England 21-13. After seeing the demise of Ireland, the Welsh were not going to make the same mistake. Wales went on to win the Grand Slam, but for England, it was their only defeat.
Italy were next, an opponent that England were expected to defeat, and they did. Putting an impressive 31 points on the board before half time to then end the game 57-14, it was the highest-scoring game of the 2019 Six Nations.
In the fifth round, England came up against Scotland, a game they should have won with Scotland ranking seventh in the world at the time. But it seemed as though England had become complacent after their triumphant win. In a bizarre game of rugby, both teams finished the 80 minutes with 38 points each. A disappointing end but with such a promising start, the competition left somewhat of a bitter taste for English fans.
2019 Rugby World Cup
England needed to put to rest the results at the Six Nations and move forward. Pool C of the Rugby World Cup looked promising for the Red Roses, with fixtures against Tonga, Argentina, USA and France.
Having defeated all of their opponents in the pool stages so far, and by a large margin, England were due to face France. The nation who would have been the first team to test England’s abilities – if they had the chance to play. Typhoon Hagibis threw a curveball, cancelling the game, but with England already advancing to the quarter-finals it did not affect the standings. The problem was that England were heading to the knockout stages playing one less game than their opponents, Australia – the team that sent them packing from the previous World Cup.
The Red Roses survived and advanced to the semi-finals. Their next opponent were back-to-back World Cup winners, New Zealand. The All Blacks were the most intimidating team England could face at the tournament, but to everyone’s amazement, England won 19-7 – they were on their way to the Rugby World Cup Final.
It would be fair to say that the team the world had witnessed defeat the All Blacks the previous week was not the same side who turned up in the final. South Africa had England beat, forcing penalty after penalty from the scrum, and it took England too long to figure out a successful tactic. It was the first try of the game that would determine the winner, and Makazole Mapimpi was the man to score for the Springboks.
Now England must look forward, sitting a comfortable third in the world rankings, behind the Springboks and All Blacks. The Six Nations odds from Paddy Power have England as favorites at 8/11 at the time of writing – many people will be expecting a winning performance.
Despite their defeat at the World Cup, Eddie Jones has assured he will be leading his men into the 2020 Six Nations Championship. “The only game that’s going to matter now is the first game of the Six Nations and I think we’ve got France. That’s the only game that matters,” He continued: “I’ll definitely be there, I’m contracted for another two years.”
It’ll be exciting to see what happens come February and if Jones can finally restore some glory to English rugby.