Great Grand Slam odds on offer for 2017 Six Nations after England’s unbeaten year
Jamie Clark | 11 January 2017
England Grand Slam tips: Red Rose odds irrepressible
Queen’s glam rock classic Don’t Stop Me Now blared over the Twickenham tannoy as unbeaten England’s rugby union team completed a flawless calendar year of 13 wins in a row under first foreign head coach Eddie Jones that began with a Grand Slam.
No other tune could’ve been more appropriate, as the Red Rose handed Australia a fourth successive defeat since the Wallabies unwittingly became the catalyst for their hosts’ equal best-ever run of 14 consecutive Test victories.
A dozen players involved in the last of England’s 2016 Autumn Internationals on December 3 also turned out 14 months to the day earlier, when the Aussies eliminated them from the Rugby World Cup on home soil at the pool stage.
Take this in. We are mostly talking about the same Red Rose players who struggled under Stuart Lancaster in the spotlight of global sporting attention last autumn.
Not only have they responded and bought into the Tasmanian tactical rugby devilry of Jones, but they now possess a winning habit at home and abroad.
In light of that, England feature again among Grand Slam tips at nifty 9/4 odds with Coral for the 2017 Six Nations. As they’re on the verge of eclipsing their finest vintage of 2003, you’d be brave to bet against them.
Red Rose journey is about the destination
Some detractors early in this new England era said it was an easy Six Nations Grand Slam up for grabs this past spring. Wales and Ireland had injuries or otherwise lost leaders and influences, France are not the force they once were, and Scotland and Italy continued to be off the pace.
The Red Rose then went Down Under for a three-match series, where England proved their credentials with a Wallabies whitewash that must rank among the most memorable Tours in rugby union history.
Could Jones get his blooming Red Rose through the Autumn Internationals without losing? Injuries mounted up, but those and other difficulties like Elliot Daly’s early dismissal against Argentina and a poor first-half with vengeful Australia then at Twickenham failed to halt their momentum.
England’s rugby union team simply could not be stopped in 2016, so who from Europe’s elite can deny them in the New Year? The 2017 Six Nations betting says no one, with Jones’ charges firm odds-on 4/5 favourites to retain the championship.
Not to get too far ahead, but here’s the scary thing; if the Red Rose do repeat their Grand Slam success, then they will surpass New Zealand’s record for a Tier 1 nation’s consecutive victories (18).
Ending 2016 as world rugby’s undisputed best of the rest behind the All Blacks, England Grand Slam tips are entirely justified at a price that probably should be shorter. Meanwhile, we’re kept waiting for a mouthwatering Kiwis clash.
“English rugby in good place until Six Nations”
Jones’ captain Dylan Hartley, the bad boy Red Rose hooker come good, isn’t getting carried away, however. “We are not looking at records, just the next game,” he insisted in a post-match radio interview.
“But we can draw a line under this year with a good victory against a quality side. I’m very proud of the guys over the last few weeks.
“It’s nice to go back to our clubs knowing we have done English rugby and the shirt proud. We leave it in a good place until the Six Nations.”
Every part of the Red Rose’s unrivaled rugby year affirmed something different, and that stands England Grand Slam tips for 2017 in very good stead.
A first Six Nations Slam for 13 years in spring was atonement, the Summer Tour Down Under demonstrated the Red Rose could hang among the Southern Hemisphere elite and the Autumn Internationals illustrated England’s strength in depth.
Options abound for Jones
Influential Red Rose lock Maro Itoje, voted world rugby’s breakthrough player of the year, joined fellow second row George Kruis and back row forwards James Haskell and Billy Vunipola as absent at the tail end of 2016.
To maintain a winning run with three or four of the front eight injured only underlines how remarkable England’s achievement is.
They’ve also been without wing duo Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson.Not only has Jones managed to cover those gaps, but developed a deeper roster in the process.
Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes are more than able replacements at lock, while flankers Teimana Harrison and Tom Wood join number eight Nathan Hughes as growing in stature.
Marland Yarde is an able wing deputy, while Daly’s ill-discipline can act as a learning curve for what remains a fledgling international career.
Backs brimming with talent
Jones’ top tactical masterstroke remains the dual playmaker system of fly half George Ford and first-choice Red Rose kicker Owen Farrell in midfield.
Respective half back and centre partners Ben Youngs and Jonathan Joseph caught the eye in the end-of-year Test against Australia, joining Yarde in crossing for tries. The former earned widespread praise for a man of the match display, while the latter’s explosive exploits continue.
Add in full back Mike Brown and Jonny May down the other wing, and these are very strong attacking options with threats throughout the seven backs.
With a new points system introduced for the 2017 Six Nations to reward attacking play, this should only add extra incentive to the Red Rose’s talented plethora of potential tryscorers.
It is one area in which Jones’ charges can improve to further justify England Grand Slam tips, with both Wales and Ireland going over more in the previous championship. There’s every reason to suppose that winning feeling will remain with the Red Rose in the New Year, though.