With the November internationals now done and dusted, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, England.
It’s been a sensational year for the English and while they didn’t face New Zealand in 2016, no one can take away from their achievements.
England started with a Six Nations Grand Slam then went Down Under to see off Australia 3-0 in June, with eyes then turning to ending the year unbeaten. Games against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia were the challenge and they came through it with flying colours.
Things, excuse the pun, are looking rosy at the moment but Eddie Jones of course will not let them take the foot off the throttle in terms of progressing. He will not rest until England become the best team in the world and unfortunately that objective is somewhat out of their hands as they do not play current top dogs, New Zealand, until late 2018. Jones will hope the Rugby Championship competition ups its game.
Meanwhile in the Six Nations it’s clear England will face a stern test to keep hold of the Championship, with Ireland, France and Scotland performing admirably in November. Wales and Italy showed glimpses of form but it appears the Irish should be England’s toughest challenger.
Looking back over last month and few would argue that they faced a South Africa side far from its best. Ensuing losses to Italy and Wales add weight to that and in all honesty it was expected England would come through that opener with a win on the board. 37-21 was the score.
Next they outclassed Fiji early on, racing to a 34-0 lead before eventually securing a 58-15 win, with Jonathan Joseph, Semesa Rokoduguni and Joe Launchbury each claiming two tries. Elliot Daly impressed on the left wing while Owen Farrell reached 500 points for his country.
The momentum was subsequently growing towards this perfect year but it looked as though their hopes of a clean sweep would be ended when Daly was red carded after just five minutes against Argentina the following week. Perhaps this showing, under the circumstances, was the most impressive of their November as England regrouped to win 27-14, with Farrell’s assured boot once again instrumental in the victory.
And so it came down to 80 minutes against Australia, a side they had faced four times previously in the past 13 months. The Wallabies had brushed aside Wales earlier in the month and a similar well-worked attacking game saw them move 0-10 ahead early on. Again though England showed a calmness that made it almost inevitable that they would work their way back into the game, which they did to lead on 30 minutes.
England turned the screw in the opening 10 minutes of the second-half and went on to prevail 37-21 to leave Australia reeling, capping a fine month and even better year under Jones who now boasts depth in each position as boxes continue to be ticked ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019, a tournament they look like being serious contenders to win.