Five reasons why England can go unbeaten under Eddie Jones in 2016
Jamie Clark | 12 November 2016
Ahead of the Autumn Internationals, Coral offer rugby union special odds that say England can go unbeaten in 2016.
Eddie Jones’ Red Rose are a sweet 7/4 to manage a whole calendar year without defeat. Since the ex-Australia and Japan coach succeeded Stuart Lancaster, England have a perfect record of nine wins in nine, yet they are odds-on at 8/15 to lose it before 2016 is done.
Matches with Southern Hemisphere quartet South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia all at home complete the Red Rose’s rugby year. Read on below as Coral experts give five reasons why England can go unbeaten in 2016.
No New Zealand showdown
As awesome as the Red Rose have become under Aussie boss Jones, ‘the Tasmanian Devil’ and his charges are spared a battle with rugby top dogs New Zealand.
The All Blacks are all-conquering, winning back-to-back Rugby World Cups and surpassing their own previous record of 17 consecutive international wins.
Steve Hansen’s Kiwis set a new streak of 18 victories in a row after defeating the Wallabies for the fifth time since mid-August 2015 in a dead-rubber Bledisloe Cup Test encounter.
It’s just as well England, who have injuries going into the Autumn Internationals, have avoided another irrepressible crop of New Zealand players. The All Blacks’ physicality and natural athleticism remains marvellous to witness.
South Africa selection struggles and try drought
Jones has kept changes to a minimum throughout his tenure as Red Rose coach to date, only altering his XV when injuries, bans or other availability issues force his hand.
It’s not quite the same for Springboks counterpart Allister Coetzee, with South Africa first up in the Autumn Internationals. In nine matches since becoming Proteas boss, he’s made an average of three changes per game and 28 in total.
The Rainbow Nation are rebuilding, but still recalled legendary winger Bryan Habana for the recent Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship campaign. That is hardly a step forward, even though Habana’s status as a national hero is beyond doubt, and worse still the Springboks last scored a try three games ago.
South Africa’s struggles in that tournament saw them win just two matches – both at home against Argentina and Australia by narrow margins. Injuries are a big part of that with first-choice fly half Handre Pollard and winger JP Pietersen notable absentees from the backs.
Red Rose have more continuity
Just three Springboks have started all nine of Coetzee’s games in charge – one apiece in the three forward rows. Blindside flanker Francois Louw, lock Eben Etzebeth and prop Tendai Mtawarira (better known as ‘the Beast’) are his ever-presents.
While Jones’ own total changes are higher (30), five of his XV have started all nine games of his Red Rose tenure; captain Dylan Hartley, tighthead prop Dan Cole, and backs trio Mike Brown, Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph (pictured above).
England were also without a number of players involved in the European Champions Cup final for their Summer Tour send-off friendly win over Wales.
These included included kicker Owen Farrell, powerful number eight Billy Vunipola, and second row duo George Kruis and Maro Itoje. The latter is now ruled out of the Autumn Internationals, though, and the former may also miss these end-of-year Tests.
Add those in, and Jones is clearly keeping faith with a close-knit squad that completed the Six Nations Grand Slam. His rebuilding job already done, this is all to the good and South Africa shall have a hard time besting a Red Rose unit that possesses more momentum and continuity.
100 per cent record against Fiji
England played Fiji in their Rugby World Cup Pool A opener last autumn and ran out three tries better than the Pacific Islanders. Full back Mike Brown crossed for a brace during that 35-11 romp at Twickenham, so there is no reason why the Red Rose can’t easily win again.
The form of that fixture, under Jones’ predecessor Lancaster, is rubber-stamped by the fact England have a 100 per cent record against Fiji, winning four out of four at Twickenham and twice on Tour.
No fewer than 15 internationals involved in that last encounter with the Pacific side are still on the Red Roster training roster picked by Jones.
So much recent relevant experience when it comes to the Fiji fixture, coupled with the massive strides made with Jones in charge, suggest England should make easy work of these opponents.
Argentina enter Autumn Internationals in poor form
Los Pumas recently played at Twickenham, nominally as the home team in a 21-33 defeat by Australia to end their Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship campaign. That was Argentina’s sixth loss in seven.
Such a downturn in form is a step backwards for Daniel Hourcade’s team, who impressed to reach the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup last year.
This November marks a decade since the Pumas pounced on the Red Rose and recorded their only triumph at Twickenham on Tour. Versatile back Juan Martin Hernandez and flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon are veterans of that winning Argentine vintage.
Apart from his front row, Joaquin Tuculet at full back, kicker Nicolas Sanchez, Pablo Matera down the blindside and Facundo Isa at number eight, little else has been settled in Hourcade’s selections this year. Star winger Juan Imhoff’s absence hasn’t helped matters among the backs.
There appears to be plenty England and Jones can exploit when it comes to the Pumas, especially the chopping and changing in the second row, down the openside and at centre.
Already whitewashed Australia away
Last, and by no means least, for the Red Rose is another encounter with the Wallabies. A sensational Summer Tour for England saw them not only record a first-ever series win Down Under, but they completed a hat-trick of victories over the Aussies.
That whitewash of the Wallabies established Jones’ charges as second behind New Zealand in the rugby world rankings. If you watched or were lucky enough to witness the Tour matches live, then they delivered everything exciting about rugby.
Man of the series James Haskell’s heroics in the first two games, plus Billy Vunipola’s breakdown brilliance, helped to neutralise the Australian back row that had looked so dangerous during the Rugby World Cup last autumn.
If by December 3rd England do have a dozen victories on the spin, and there is every reason to feel confident about that, then Jones will target a fourth consecutive win over the Wallabies in six months.
So, there you have it. England can go unbeaten in 2016 easily, so back the Red Rose at 7/4 to do just that and have the perfect rugby year!
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