RBS SIX NATIONS WHY england will win & how that affects you

FRANCE

Les Bleus might have FINISHED THE YEAR WITH MORE DEFEATS THAN VICTORIES

WALES

A RIB INJURY sustained in Rome on Sunday plus Sam Davies' superb second-half showing off the bench led some to question if Dan Biggar would start against England this weekend.

The Red Rose - 15 GAMES UNBEATEN and Grand Slam champions - have not lost to Wales in the RBS 6 Nations in four years.

IRELAND

Despite defeating England and Wales, IRELAND FAILED TO WIN the Triple Crown after a 23-20 DEFEAT to Scotland in their final match.

And Ireland's tournament TOOK A TURN FOR THE WORSE next up in Paris as they were HAMMERED by the eventual champions France 33-10 - Bowe again stood up but he was UNABLE TO CROSS the whitewash throughout.

ITALY

Conor O'Shea admitted that ITALY WAS BEATEN by the better team on Saturday but insists they can bounce back as they prepare for their next RBS 6 Nations clash away to England in round three.

He added: "We are proud people sitting up here and we don't like this. I HATE DAYS LIKE THIS but we know what we have to do and we are working together for Italian rugby.

SCOTLAND

"Greig has HURT HIS ANKLE, other players who came off were HEAD INJURIES, so we'll see. Other players are banged up as well," Cotter explained.

In Focus: Unbeaten England looking to keep momentum

Jones' men start their campaign against France at Twickenham, before travelling to Cardiff to face Wales. Two home games follow against Italy and Scotland before a mouth-watering final weekend in Dublin against Ireland.

"If you keep evolving what you do, then teams are going to go at what you used to do, not what you are doing now," Jones said. "I don't see it as this is the England game, this is how we are going to play - that is evolving all the time.

"Good players evolve with time. Roger Federer... every time he plays he has got some new stroke he develops. It is the same with rugby players. If you are a great defensive player and you can add attacking skills you become potentially a great player like Richie McCaw.

"Everyone here is very hungry to have success again. We've got to come out of the blocks and play well against France. If we get that wrong, it's out of the window already so we have to take it game by game."

Performance in 2016

There's no doubting England have a target on their back during this year's RBS 6 Nations.

They are the defending Grand Slam champions and went unbeaten throughout the whole of 2016, a run that saw them go to Australia and record a 3-0 whitewash in the summer and also enjoy a clean sweep during the recent autumn internationals.

What a difference just a few months can make - from becoming the first Rugby World Cup host nation to fail to progress from their qualification pool in 2015 to rising through the standings to become the second best ranked side on the planet.

The nucleus of the side remained largely the same in 2016 but the improvement displayed under Jones by the likes of Mako and Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs and James Haskell was unrecognisable from 12 months previously.

Jones also takes credit for the appointment of Dylan Hartley as skipper, the Northampton Saint's promotion seen as a huge contributing factor in a memorable year.

England started off last year's RBS 6 Nations with an unconvincing 15-9 win at BT Murrayfield against Scotland but improved as the tournament progressed.

They defeated Italy 40-9 away from home, beat Ireland 21-10 at Twickenham, downed Wales 25-21 on home soil before beating France 31-21 in Paris.

The captain: Dylan Hartley

It has not been the smoothest of build-ups for skipper Dylan Hartley ahead of this year's RBS 6 Nations.

Between injury and then suspension, Hartley won't have played for nine weeks ahead of England's opening game of the Championship against France on February 4.

However, Jones has stuck by the 30-year-old as skipper and Hartley revealed he has been working on his tackle technique to ensure his international career continues to flourish.

"I did think that maybe that was it," said Hartley, who was suspended for a dangerous tackle on Sean O'Brien in December.

"But again, a conversation with Eddie - a very clear and direct conversation - and I know where I stand.

"I obviously came back to Northampton and wanted to make a positive impact in a big game for the club. It obviously went horribly wrong.

"Positive, dominant, hard tackle. That's what I was thinking. Obviously the outcome was different to what I intended.

"I put myself and the team in a difficult position and since then I've had clear directives from the management of what they expect and here I am."

The coach: Eddie Jones

After racking up 13 consecutive wins in 2016, Eddie Jones has been applauded for his immediate impact at the England helm.

The Australian took on the top job last year after the disappointment of the Rugby World Cup, and has won every game since.

Talk of a back-to-back Grand Slams has been a popular topic of conversation this week but for Jones the longer-term ambition is to establish England as the dominant team in the game.

Jones said: "This time last year I said that the long-term strategy for England is to develop a side who can be the most dominant team in world rugby.

"Obviously I've been pleased with how the team's progressing, but there's still plenty to improve on. We always want to get better, every training session, every game.

"I've been impressed with the three uncapped players named in the squad.

"They're all guys who have great physical capabilities and they all have a desire to improve. With a number of injuries to some key players it's a great opportunity for them.

"At the start of last year's RBS 6 Nations I probably didn't realise the enormity of the tournament and how intense the rivalry is between the countries, so this year we'll be better prepared for it and we are looking forward to being daring in our game against France on 4 February."

As well as Jones, who of course made his name with Australia and Japan - as well as helping South Africa to World Cup victory in 2007 - England have a coaching staff featuring future Lions assistant Steve Borthwick.

And the latest addition to the set-up is visual skills coach Dr Sherylle Calder, who has worked with Sir Clive Woodward's England side, that same Springbok team in 2007 and Jones' Japan team.

Her efforts have coincided with some of those countries' most successful periods, while she was also credited with helping golfer Ernie Els to his British Open victory in 2012.

Squad breakdown: Testing strength in depth

England have had to deal with a number of injuries in the build-up to the Championship, with Mako and Billy Vunipola both missing, alongside former skipper Robshaw, while an untimely injury to Watson will have derailed plans further.

They have named three uncapped players in all, back rower Mike Williams, loosehead Nathan Catt and versatile back Alex Lozowski, while Ellis Genge, 21, is also in the 34-man squad, with just one cap to his name.

Coping with injuries is nothing new for Jones though, and he will be pleased to have flanker Haskell, lock Maro Itoje, back rower Jack Clifford and winger Jack Nowell fit again, while the unlikely return to fitness of Joe Marler following a broken leg is most unexpected.

England's strength in depth will certainly be tested but Jones remains confident with the resources he has to call upon.

One to watch: Moving Maro

He's hardly an international novice following the impact he made on last season's Championship, but it will be interesting to see the strides Maro Itoje takes again.

A nominee for the World Rugby's Player of the Year award, and winner of the Breakthrough title, Itoje missed the November Tests through injury.

Created By
Dorian Ranger
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