One year out from the Rugby World Cup, England should be looking to win every match this November. But would two or three out of four be good enough, given England’s year so far?
We should beat Japan. That’s a given, and although my South African colleagues tell me that I shouldn’t be too confident, I’m counting one win in the bag already.
Let’s take the others in order…
The Springboks are significantly improved under Rassie Erasmus, as they showed in South Africa over the summer, winning the first two Tests in the series before giving England a consolation victory in the dead rubber third test.
They then beat New Zealand in New Zealand, and should have won the return fixture at Loftus as well, and will arrive at Twickenham with plenty of confidence that they can mix it with the best, home or away.
England at home should have an advantage, but beset by injuries and with tomorrow’s questionable selection on its way, a win will be hard to come by.
Then it’s the All Blacks next up, and given their dominance of World Rugby these days, you can only hope for a result rather than expect one. By mid-November then, England could easily by 0 from 2.
Let’s say we’re 1 from 3 after Japan, and the Wallabies will arrive for the final match of the year. England have had the better of recent matches with Australia, but they tend to over-perform at Twickenham, and with further injuries inevitable in such a demanding schedule, England could be fielding a hugely inexperienced team and staring at a third defeat to end their annus horribilis.
In that scenario, even if England do beat a poor Australia side, would 2 wins out of 4 be a successful return?
However, an encouraging performance with a victory over South Africa could set England on a different course, and November could yet yield three or even four wins, and this is a fact that makes Saturday’s meeting with the Springboks so critical.
How many wins do England need to constitute success? Or is it more about performance than results?