RBS Six Nations 2012 Team Preview: England

Six Nations Pedigree:

The reigning champions missed out on a Grand Slam last year when they were defeated by Ireland in Dublin. What followed was a disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign of which the pain is too much to revisit. Which brings us to the present, where with an inexperienced squad and new coaching staff England are looking to win their fifth Six Nations title, and their second Grand Slam.

Best Six Nations moment:

Dan Luger’s injury-time score in the 42-6 thrashing of Ireland at Lansdowne Road. England dominated from start to finish, and with this win captured the Grand Slam. The momentum from this and the summer test wins against New Zealand and Australia down under were all significant in England’s build-up to the successful 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Biggest Six Nations Win: 80 – 23 (v Italy 2001)

Biggest Six Nations Defeat: 13 – 43 (v Ireland 2007)

Current FormW-W-W-W-W-L

Key player: Chris Robshaw

England’s new captain, at least for the first two matches against Scotland and Italy, comes into the side to win only his second cap and to lead a new team, of which just under half of the 22 did not travel to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. His form for Harlequins both in terms of leadership and the way he has played has been exceptional. On top of being captain, he must dominate the breakdown in the number 7 shirt, even if he is not a natural fetcher.

One to watch: Owen Farrell

Lavished with praise over the last 12 months and rightly so, Farrell has made the breakthrough to the senior side at the age of 20, after Premiership success with Saracens last year. A long-term option either at 12 or 10, Farrell will most likely start at 13 against Scotland, and also be England’s chosen goalkicker. In possession of an excellent skill set along with maturity beyond his years, Farrell is a very exciting prospect.

RBS Six Nations Fixtures:

Saturday 4th February, Scotland v England, 17:00, Murrayfield
Saturday 11th February, Italy v England, 16:00, Stadio Olimpico
Saturday 25th February, England v Wales, 16:00, Twickenham
Sunday 11th March, France v England, 15:00, Stade de France
Saturday 17th March, England v Ireland, 17:00, Twickenham

Key Clash: Scotland v England

England’s campaign certainly won’t be over if they lose at Murrayfield, but given that it’s the first start for around eight new caps and a new coaching setup, a loss here leaves England with a tough run of fixtures. An upset losing away to Italy isn’t out of the question, whilst winning in Paris seems too difficult. That leaves the home matches against an Irish and Welsh side who could be eyeing up a Championship depending on the result of their first round clash. Therefore, England must win at Murrayfield, by whatever way possible, something they have not done since 2004.

Odds: 4/1 to win.

Argument that says they can win it:

The unknown. No one, including the opposition, knows how England’s new team will perform together at this level, not even their own coaches. This element of surprise, plus the integration of exciting talent including Farrell, Robshaw, Charlie Sharples and Ben Morgan, means that if they can gel quick enough England could become a threat. Combine that with a good run of results with victories over Scotland and Italy, and momentum could lead to a hard-fought win over Wales given their weakened tight five. From there, a miracle in Paris and a groundout victory over Ireland at Twickenham behind them could bring success.

Argument that says they can’t:

By far the more realistic argument. England are a team in transition; a squad and almost a whole organisation undergoing an extreme makeover following the scarring of a disastrous RWC campaign. The number of new players, plus injuries to key personnel in Toby Flood, Courtney Lawes, Manu Tuilagi and Tom Wood, mean that England’s selection is simply too inconsistent to be successful. History shows that the most successful teams are those with the most experience of both playing together, which England simply do not have.

Coach Stuart Lancaster says:

“We’ve talked about some of the lessons that we needed to learn collectively and I have made it clear what is expected from an England player. We’ve said this is the way it’s going to be. It’s about creating an environment that shapes behaviour and hopefully everyone will see a change. This is a new team and any side I have coached, I would be disappointed if people termed us as arrogant. We want to be known as a humble, hard-working, honest team who graft and get on with the job and represent England with pride.”

Captain Chris Robshaw says:

“There’s lots of other leaders in the group and they have been great since we met up. It’s not about myself because there are six or seven guys around me who all have a massive role to play, whether that’s bossing scrums, line-outs, attack, defence…Stuart (Lancaster), Graham (Rowntree) and Andy (Farrell) have given us the game plan and it’s up to us to get it across to the other players to drive the standards and the squad forward in the right way.”

Prediction:

The Champions have undergone such a much-needed radical overhaul, that winning the Six Nations seems impossible. In fact, they have slipped behind France, Ireland and Wales in the pecking order, which would leave them finishing 4th, which is not even guaranteed given their record over the Scottish border. 4th.

by Ben Coles

11 thoughts on “RBS Six Nations 2012 Team Preview: England

  1. If things work out then England will win 3 of 5 the new players are hungry talented and ready for the step up.Given this and the return of injured talent then things should improve.

  2. I said a similar thing this time last year, but England just have to win the first game. If they beat Scotland, they should see off Italy and then they’ll have a bit of confidence playing Wales at Twickenham and that would look winnable.

    Lose at Murrayfield and they’ll go to Rome looking slightly vulnerable, and even if they scrape through there, not many would fancy their chances against the Welsh.

    Momentum is critical in this tournament…it’s all about the Calcutta Cup!

  3. I would still be happy finishing fourth at the moment. I’m just glad that we’ve made the changes which were necessary, and that someone is in charge who is not scared to make those changes, and who seems to have the full backing of the team.

  4. Pretty spot on, and I agree with Hutch as well. Momentum is key, particularly since England are such a young team. Experienced teams can leave bad performances behind them and front up the following week, but a young team is more prone to dropping their heads and letting negative momentum kick in.
    Forwards need a massive game, often the Calcutta Cup is won and lost with the kicking so Eng mustn’t be complacent and give away too many penalties.
    If Farrell can slot his goals and edge us an ugly victory it will give us a boost to open up against Italy and fire up our back line a bit more. Let’s not forget that with Tuilagi, Foden and Ashton we have one of the most explosive back lines in the tournament. I’m actually quietly confident.

  5. Momentum is Key and i think England will splutter in this Tournament.

    Lose against Scotland
    Win against Italy
    Win against Wales
    Lose against France
    Win against Ireland

  6. I can see us as being highly unpredictable and inconsistent in this six nations. Lots of new untested players could lead to us losing some games we might hope to win and win maybe one or two that no one gives us a chance with. Whatever happens it’s going to be an exciting rollercoaster and am actually really happy to be going into the championship with virtually no expectations for the first time in ages!

  7. I’ll be the positive one to put my neck on the block then. Scotland look an inferior side on paper, and a new regime and new faces see England as favourites for me on Saturday. I see 3 opening wins to be honest (as I don’t see Wales being ahead of England in the pecking order, even more so with their crippling injury list) but downhill thereafter with two losses in Paris and at home to Ireland. Encouraging words from captain and coach: I am far more comfortable with a coach who has done the hard yards than I ever was with Martin Johnson in charge.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Bottom line is that we are much stronger than we were this time last year, even if we do have inexperienced players in there. Hape and Banahan have more experience than Barritt and Farrell, but would anyone pick the first two over the second for a must-win game? What about Easter over Dowson? Or Moody (unavailable I know) over Robshaw? Or Cueto over Strettle? But here’s the really important one – Ford, Wells, Smith and Johnno over Lancaster and Farrell? And while injuries to guys like Wood and Flood are not ideal, we have decent back-ups in their places.

      Murrayfield is always a hard place to go, but I say England by 7.

  8. Scotland would need to score tries to beat the English. Something which has been proved time and again they cant do when it matters. Farrels boot will keep the scoreboard ticking over.

  9. Well we are not only a new team but also in a way, a depleted weakened one with the injuries. so if we beat the Scots like I think we will, how fffking excited will we all be then !

    Wales have injuries the Scots need more time and France lost 2 games at WC only beating a depleted All blacks and a shit England. Italy are Italy and Ireland we owe em one.. So Come On England Go For It ! !!

  10. I’m not sure you English people have enough optimism about your team. To me (a nervous welshman) I think your team looks very strong. Assuming they gel together. Tuilagi missing is unfortunate but I think you shouldnt miss Lawes and Wood that much (but then I think Lawes is just a useless lump anyway). I think a second place is very attainable behind a French team that should walk it.

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