Introducing England: Can the champions defend their crown?

England are seeking a fourth Guinness Six Nations title of the Eddie Jones era and they start as one of the red-hot favourites again.

England are seeking a fourth Guinness Six Nations title of the Eddie Jones era and they start as one of the red-hot favourites again.

The Red Rose will defend the crowd they worked so hard to gain last year, when they rebounded from an opening-round loss to France to reel off four wins on the spin.

They then backed that up with an Autumn Nations Cup triumph, complete with victories against Guinness Six Nations rivals Ireland, Wales and France.

The next step is a shot at a first Grand Slam since 2016, but as ever, familiar foes stand in their way.

It says a lot about Owen Farrell’s steely character that, after missing five of nine shots at goal, he came back to kick the decisive points and win the Autumn Nations Cup for England last December.

That completed a golden year for Farrell and his men after they wrapped up the 2020 Championship just weeks before.

A deadly goal-kicker, the Saracens man can play both at fly-half and inside centre and often switches between the two for England.

Still just 29, the two-time Lions tourist is entering his third Championship as England captain.

Eddie Jones is approaching his sixth Guinness Six Nations in charge of the Red Rose and the Australian is seeking more silverware for his trophy cabinet.

Jones arrived after the 2015 World Cup and led England to the Grand Slam in his first Championship in charge, with away wins at Scotland and France among the highlights.

England defended their title in 2017, although missed out on the Grand Slam to Ireland in Round 5, before surrendering their crown in 2018 to the Men in Green.

Jones steered England to the 2019 World Cup final, beating New Zealand in the last four, but they lost to South Africa.

However, England rebounded with a third Guinness Six Nations title of the Jones era last season.

One of the most highly-regarded coaches in the game, Jones has also enjoyed stints with Australia and Japan, while he also won the 2007 World Cup as an assistant coach with South Africa.

England could hardly have got off to a worse start in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, as they ran into a red-hot France in Round 1.

Charles Ollivon bagged two tries in the contest and, though Jonny May matched that in the second half, France held on for a well-deserved 24-17 win.

A gritty 13-6 Calcutta Cup victory away to Scotland in Round 2 kick-started England’s campaign though, and their confidence steadily grew with a pair of home wins against Ireland and Wales.

With the Championship on a knife-edge, England knew they would have to beat Italy convincingly in Round 5 to stand any chance of winning the title – and they did just that with a 34-5 success in Rome thanks to two scores from 100-cap man Ben Youngs.

Ireland’s subsequent defeat to France in Paris meant England were crowned champions.

The Red Rose are such a well-oiled and experienced machine that anything less than another Guinness Six Nations trophy will be considered a disappointment.

Three home matches against Scotland, Italy and France works in their favour – despite Twickenham being empty – but they will have to be at their best to emerge victorious from Ireland and Wales.

Jones challenges England to ‘dominate opposition’ ahead of title defence

Key flanker Sam Underhill may be injured but England can call upon No.8 Billy Vunipola, a world-class operator who has played in just one Championship match in two years due to injury.

England v Scotland, Twickenham, February 6, Kick-off: 16.45

England v Italy, Twickenham, February 13, Kick-off: 14.15

Wales v England, Cardiff, February 27, Kick-off: 16.45

England v France, Twickenham, March 13, Kick-off: 16:45

Ireland v England, Dublin, March 20, Kick-off: 16.45