Story of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations: England

England came into the 2019 NatWest 6 Nations as the two-time defending champions – looking to claim an historic hat-trick.

England came into the 2019 NatWest 6 Nations as the two-time defending champions – looking to claim an historic hat-trick.

Despite a strong start however, England finished with three successive defeats, slipping to fifth place overall.

Click here for the final 2018 NatWest 6 Nations table

That is their worst ever final position since the Five Nations became Six, and Jones and the Red Rose have some rebuilding to do.

But the Australian head coach has called this a fantastic learning experience for his side ahead of the World Cup, and the Championship did begin with two victories.

Here is the story of the English campaign:   Italy 15-46 England   The first Sunday of the Championship saw England get up and running in classy fashion.

Anthony Watson and Sam Simmonds both bagged doubles in a seven-try victory over the Azzurri at the Stadio Olimpico.

Watson had two scores inside the opening ten minutes as Owen Farrell and George Ford dovetailed to devastating effect.

And while Tommaso Benvenuti and Mattia Bellini both crossed for the hosts, England’s replacements piled on the punishment in the final quarter.

A bonus-point victory secured in the sun at the Stadio Olimpico, the Red Rose appeared to be in full bloom as they returned to Twickenham for the visit of Wales.   England 12-6 Wales   In a far more entertaining game than the low scoreline would suggest, Jones’ men had Jonny May to thank for a hard-fought victory.

May scored his first NatWest 6 Nations tries in the first quarter, the first from a fine Farrell kick and the second from a superb Joe Launchbury offload.

But, as a harbinger of things to come in the Championship, Wales grew into the game, contested well at the breakdown and England’s attack sputtered after those early incisions.

Only a majestic covering tackle from Sam Underhill prevented a late Scott Williams score in the corner and England held on to preserve their unbeaten record at Twickenham under Jones.   Scotland 25-13 England   A pulsating BT Murrayfield crowd were treated to one of the greatest days in Scotland’s history in round three as the hosts claimed their first win over the Auld Enemy in a decade.

England shipped three tries before half-time, Huw Jones bagging a double and Sean Maitland also going over as the Scots came roaring out of the blocks.

Skipper John Barclay and Hamish Watson dominated the breakdown and Finn Russell pulled the strings as England fell to their first defeat of the campaign.

Farrell scored all of England’s points and they battled hard in the second half, threatening a comeback when Farrell went over for what would have been his second but the try was ruled out.

They were dancing in the streets of Edinburgh, while England trudged back down south licking their wounds.   France 22-16 England   The last time England were in the Stade de France, they were winning a Grand Slam in Jones’ first year at the helm.

But two years later, it was a very different story as a comeback attempt in Paris fell short.

The defending champions needed to beat France with a four-try bonus point to deny Ireland the title with a round to spare.

But instead they were handed a second consecutive defeat, thanks largely to the boot of Maxime Machenaud and a second half penalty try for a resurgent France.

May’s late try did give them a hope of a fightback, but like at BT Murrayfield, their attack failed to fire while they continued to struggle at the breakdown.

The title was Ireland’s – and all England could hope for was to deny them a Grand Slam at Twickenham in the final round.   England 15-24 Ireland   The final nail in England’s coffin arrived on Super Saturday as Jones’ men were handed their third loss in a row – and their first at Twickenham since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Grand Slammers Ireland were far too clinical, crossing for three first-half tries, while England’s problems continued.

Elliot Daly’s double was a bright spot for the Red Rose on his return from injury while May grabbed a late consolation.

But Farrell missed the conversion that would have given them a losing bonus point, and England were confirmed in fifth place in the table.

Not since 1987 have England finished that low – and with a World Cup less than 18 months away Jones has much to ponder.