England: The Year Ahead

The wheel of international rugby turns very quickly.

The wheel of international rugby turns very quickly.

Eddie Jones and England have already begun the process of putting the World Cup final disappointment behind them.

But before they know it, the 2020 Guinness Six Nations will be upon them.

After coming so close to winning it all in Yokohama at the start of this month, there are far more positives than negatives to come out of the Red Rose’s adventures in the Far East.

And if Jones can channel their frustration into something positive, they are going to take some stopping next year.

In terms of players, there is unlikely to be too much turnover after this World Cup.

But behind the scenes, Jones is already underway in assembling a new backroom staff to account for the loss of scrum coach Neal Hatley to Bath with Scott Wisemantel’s contract also now up.

Defence coach John Mitchell will be sticking around while the future of forwards coach Steve Borthwick has yet to be confirmed.

From a playing point of view, no player has officially hung up their international boots yet.

Joe Marler might feel his international return for this World Cup was a fitting end point but only Dan Cole, Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes, Mark Wilson and Willi Heinz are the wrong side of 30 from the squad in Japan.

Does Jones start planning for 2023 and cast some of them adrift? Will some of those players take the decision out of his hands? It remains to be seen, but it looks likely to be a case of evolution not revolution for Jones heading into the new four-year cycle.

A huge chunk of the starting XV in Yokohama against the Springboks were aged 26 or less.

Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, Kyle Sinckler and Maro Itoje should be giving forward packs nightmares for many years to come.

While in the backline George Ford, Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly have got plenty more to offer.

Then there are the other rising sons out east like Joe Cokanasiga, Ellis Genge, Lewis Ludlam and of course Jack Nowell is still only 26.

But there will also be a new generation of talent knocking on the door soon enough.

England’s scrum-half stocks look low, so Bristol’s Harry Randall might get a chance before too long while at tighthead Harry Williams should come again while Nick Schonert is pushing hard.

Out wide Joe Marchant and Ollie Thorley are names to keep an eye on – even if the former is heading to New Zealand in the new year for a Super Rugby season with the Blues.

Ted Hill and Joel Kpoku could be challenging for pack position before too long, not to mention breakouts like Alex Dombrandt and Jack Willis who are already on Jones’ radar.

The 2020 Guinness Six Nations gets underway in less than three months, and England face a tough trip to Paris first up to take on Les Bleus.

The last Crunch was a hammering at Twickenham, as Jonny May ran riot against a limp French outfit.

But with Fabien Galthie now at the helm and Shaun Edwards installed as defence coach, they should be a far tougher proposition early next year.

Of course these two sides were meant to face at Rugby World Cup 2019 before Typhoon Hagibis rolled in so there is plenty to ponder on the Championship’s opening weekend.

After Paris, Jones’ side will head to Edinburgh intent on avenging their 2018 Calcutta Cup defeat in the Scottish capital.

Jones’ side would love the reclaim the famous old trophy after this year’s dramatic draw at Twickenham.

After two tough trips, England return home in round three for what should be a Farrell family reunion as Ireland, under their new head coach Andy, take on captain Owen’s Red Rose outfit.

England stormed the Aviva Stadium at the start of this year so Ireland – in their first campaign after Joe Schmidt – will be keen to turn the tables.

In round four, Wales are the visitors at Twickenham and England will hope to continue a fine winning record at home against their old rivals that stretches back four games and four years to that famous World Cup pool stage win.

Super Saturday sees England head to Rome to take on an Italian side they have never lost to in their history, with the chance of a third Championship of the Jones era potentially on the line.

England won the Grand Slam in the first Championship after a World Cup four years ago, and if they can repeat the trick they will return to Japan full of confidence.

England face the Brave Blossom in a two-Test summer series before a packed autumn fixture list.

They open up next November against the All Blacks – an enthralling re-match of the World Cup semi-final – before Argentina come to town followed by a to-be-confirmed Tier Two nation before rounding out the series by welcoming the Wallabies.