Focus on the 2019 Championship: England

Having started the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations as reigning champions, England were dethroned by an effervescent Ireland, who stormed to an historic Grand Slam.

Having started the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations as reigning champions, England were dethroned by an effervescent Ireland, who stormed to an historic Grand Slam.

Eddie Jones’ side suffered three defeats and finished fifth in the table as they fell short of their pre-Championship expectations.

How will England react when Rugby’s Greatest Championship returns in 2019? Here’s our look at the challenges that lie in wait as the NatWest 6 Nations’ most successful side look to bounce back next year.

02/02/19 – Ireland v England (Aviva Stadium)

The curtain fell on England’s 2018 NatWest 6 Nations campaign with Jones’ men watching Ireland claim a third Grand Slam on their own turf.

Already champions, the Irish ran out 24-15 winners at Twickenham, Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Jacob Stockdale all going over in the first period as a brace of unconverted scores from Elliot Daly, as well as a try from Jonny May, proved in vain for the hosts.

England will face a cast-iron test of their credentials straight off the bat when Rugby’s Greatest Championship returns.

10/02/19 – England v France (Twickenham)

With Jones’ troops finishing fifth, revenge is certain to be an overriding narrative more than once in 2019 and no less so than when England roll out the red carpet for France.

Their chances of retaining the title they won in 2017 came to an end at the Stade de France earlier this month, with a penalty try and four penalties from Maxime Machenaud condemning the visitors to a 22-16 defeat.

England haven’t lost to France in the NatWest 6 Nations at Twickenham since 2005 and extending their fine home record against Les Bleus will be essential if the English are to taste success in 2019.

23/02/19 – Wales v England (Principality Stadium)

Expect no quarter to be given when England renew their rivalry with Wales after the two teams played out one of the tensest clashes of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations.

A nail-biting encounter at Twickenham saw England run out 12-6 winners courtesy of two early May tries but they were forced to throw everything into keeping the Welsh at bay, with Sam Underhill’s spectacular try-saving tackle on Scott Williams going a long way to sealing a home triumph.

The English have tasted victory on both of their previous trips to Principality Stadium – in the 2015 and 2017 Championships – but Warren Gatland’s Wales will be desperate to set the record straight.

09/03/19 – England v Italy (Twickenham)

Having been pushed all the way against Italy in 2017, England began this year’s Championship in superb style with a seven-try success at the Stadio Olimpico.

Anthony Watson and Sam Simmonds grabbed brace while Owen Farrell, George Ford and Jack Nowell all also dotted down as Jones’ men were 46-15 victors.

That win saw England maintain their 100 per cent record in Test matches against the Italians and they will be keen to add another notch to that impressive tally when Conor O’Shea’s men arrive at Twickenham next year.

16/03/19 – England v Scotland (Twickenham)

England will benefit from back-to-back home games when Rugby’s Greatest Championship concludes its 2019 edition.

By the time their final game on March 16 rolls around, head coach Jones will hope that his team will be in a Championship-winning position but he will need no reminding of the danger that Scotland will pose.

At BT Murrayfield in February, Huw Jones scored two tries as the Scots condemned England to a disappointing 25-13 defeat, regaining the Calcutta Cup for the first time in a decade.