Five-time British and Irish Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan has earned the right to an opinion many times over, but stating that England won’t win the Six Nations due to one key flaw is a bit daft and practically begs for a rebuttal.
It is fair to say England are odd favourites at 13/8, ahead of champions Ireland at 15/8, who the Red Rose must face in Dublin, as there is perhaps only one team in world rugby playing better at the moment, and the All Blacks were probably happy to avoid Joe Schmidt’s men during the autumn.
That being said, England always stand a chance in the Six Nations, purely and simply because they always have so many top players.
Sir Ian points to the continued loss of excellent ball-carrying lock Joe Launchbury, which is a fair comment after the 23-year-old’s colossal display against the Irish last year, but it’s not like England are short in the second row.
Courtney Lawes is arguably the best lock in the northern hemisphere, and certainly will be when Paul O’Connell retires.
Dave Attwood did well next to the Northampton man during the Autumn Internationals, Geoff Parling could be back from injury, and Saracens’ George Kruis was no slouch after coming on in the three-point loss to New Zealand two months ago.
As Geech conceded in his Telegraph article, England have serious depth in the pack, and would fancy their chances against any scrum in the world if their full front row was fit.
It’s a longshot, but if Lancaster can keep Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole, David Wilson, Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola fit, or a reasonable number of them at key times at least, then nobody will enjoy facing England.
The backs speak for themselves; Jonny May, Brad Barritt, Danny Care and of course George Ford all had fine autumns, Luther Burrell, Marland Yarde and Jack Nowell are knocking on the door, and Owen Farrell and Ben Youngs have points to prove.
That’s without mentioning the expected return of Manu Tuilagi, and last season’s player of the tournament Mike Brown, who lost no lustre during the autumn.
Furthermore, it’s not like England have to contend with an ultra-competitive tournament this year, with France taking far too long over their latest transition and Wales totally unworthy of a bet in the outrights at 7/2, after a largely poor 12 months from Warren Gatland’s side.
They may not deserve to be favourites, but it would be no surprise to many, if not Sir Ian, if England went into the World Cup they’re set to host as Six Nations champions.
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