England go into the 2021 Six Nations in imperious form. The defending champions have finished outside of the top two just once in the last 10 editions, are ranked second in the world and enter this year’s tournament buoyed by an excellent Autumn Nations Cup campaign.
Simply put, the Red Rose are the red-hot favourites (they’re currently evens with Betfred) and many believe Eddie Jones’ men could walk away with the Six Nations trophy between now and the end of March.
But this is England of course, a nation more than used to seeing defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, and things are never as easy as they seem. Here are three reasons why an England Six Nations win is not a forgone conclusion…
England’s strong all-round squad is ultimately one of the reasons the side are so well backed for glory this year, but there are a number of high-profile absences putting their resources to the test; Mako Vunipola, Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler are all out of the front row, while Sam Underhill and Joe Launchbury are also missing. Scotland will certainly be uplifted by this news going into Saturday’s opening game but it could be even more of a headache for Jones in round four when they go up against the second-favourites, France.
In-Form France Ready To Deliver A Message
Having won seven from nine across 2020, France will be turning up to this year’s instalment of the Six Nations in red-hot form. Their second string side gave England a scare at the Autumn Nations Cup and although they enter this tournament with key injuries, notably Romain Ntamack and Viremi Vakatawa, Fabien Galthié’s side are still a huge threat. With the 2023 World Cup in France just around the corner, Les Bleus will want to send a message loud and clear to the rest of the world - the Six Nations provides just that opportunity.
A Predictably Unpredictable Wales
Wales are the ultimate Six Nations enigma, so it’s anybody’s guess how they’ll fare this time around, especially after a poor showing last time around. But, credit where credit’s due, Wales know how to bounce back in style - they've recovered from disastrous Six Nation campaigns before and gone on to win Grand Slams.
This week former Wales number 8 Scott Quinnell backed his home nation for glory for that very reason, saying, “You talk about head and heart, they are the same thing for me. I've got to go for Wales. We've had bad years in the past and, OK, last year wasn't great, but we've bounced back from bad years before with Grand Slams.”
Should the Welsh get their tournament off to winning ways against Ireland in their opener in Cardiff on Sunday, then you’d be foolish to back against them doing it again.