With the pressure on, how will England fare against some of world rugby’s best sides?
England v South Africa, Saturday 3 November, 2pm, Sky Sports Action/HD (CH 517/507)
It’s been a tough 2018 for England and head coach Eddie Jones. Following a disastrous 6 Nations campaign, the Red Rose suffered a 2-1 series defeat to South Africa in the summer. And things are about to get a whole lot tougher, with four huge international matches exclusively live on Sky Sports this November.
The Red Rose kick off their autumn campaign against South Africa at Twickenham this Saturday, before taking on the might of New Zealand and Australia, plus a potentially tricky clash with Japan.
With the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan less than 12 months away, this really is the last chance for England to test themselves against the best of the Southern Hemisphere. Can they get back on track, or is there trouble ahead?
Here, we explore the big questions England will hope to emphatically answer this autumn…
Can the Red Rose rediscover their winning habit?
After two years of almost unbroken success and a win rate of 96%, 2018 has been a stinker of a year for England. They’ve won just three out of nine games, and lost to both Ireland and the Barbarians on home turf. It’s not about to get easier either, with a resurgent South Africa first up this autumn. Eddie Jones’ men desperately need to turn things around.
Is the head coach’s job under threat?
Speaking of Jones, it’s fair to say that he’s lost his Midas touch – and fans and pundits alike are sharpening their knives. With the 2019 World Cup around the corner, the stakes have never been higher. Is the Australian the right person to lead the Red Rose at the tournament? A successful autumn series says yes, but two or three defeats could well spell the end. Things are sure to be much clearer come December.
What is England’s strongest XV?
Getting the selection right will be crucial for Jones to save his job. There’s no doubting that, despite some injury problems, there’s some impressive talent available. Lock forward Maro Itoje and playmaker Owen Farrell would walk into most all-star XVs, and with Danny Cipriani omitted from the squad, it looks like George Ford – who has been brilliant for Leicester this season – has got fly-half locked down. The other pieces of the puzzle are less clear, but expect big performances from the likes of Henry Slade, Tom Curry and Brad Shields.
How will England measure up against the All Blacks?
It’s been four long years since England last played New Zealand. But with England’s form faltering, what was once billed as the best versus the best has lost its allure – but it’ll be no less absorbing for the fans. England have just one win in their past 15 encounters, dating back to 2004. But the current crop are beatable. South Africa inflicted their first defeat in a year – in New Zealand, no less – during the recent Rugby Championship. England can take heart from that ahead of what was shaping up to be mission impossible.
What would a good autumn look like for England?
Any defeat at international level is hard to swallow – especially for an England team with lofty aspirations and sizeable resources. But a valiant loss to the All Blacks could be stomached if it came with the tonic of three convincing victories over South Africa, Japan and Australia. No pressure then, Eddie.
England’s autumn internationals on Sky Sports
England v South Africa
Saturday 3 November, 2pm, Sky Sports Action/HD (CH 517/507)
England v New Zealand
Saturday 10 November, 2pm, Sky Sports Action/HD (CH 517/507)
England v Japan
Saturday 17 November, 2.30pm, Sky Sports Action/HD (CH 517/507)
England v Australia
Saturday 24 November, 2pm, Sky Sports Action/HD (CH 517/507)
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