2021 was filled with so many amazing highs: fans returned to Twickenham, some fresh new exciting faces and plenty of thrilling games. However, it wasn’t always blue skies and sunshine. In this blog, we will be recapping what happened in the Guinness Six Nations, the Summer Series, the Autumn Nations Series and briefly discuss events in South Africa – where the Lions toured.
Firstly, lets rewind the clock to February where England started their Six Nations campaign against rivals Scotland…
Lacklustre England slump to finish 5th in the Six Nations
England returned to Twickenham for the first game of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations. They played Scotland in a low scoring game in which England lost 11-6; England just couldn’t live with the high tempo rugby Scotland played. The main worry for England was extraordinarily high penalty count, which gave Scotland the opportunity to control the match. In the next round, England played Italy at Twickenham - whatever Eddie Jones had to say to his team, it had some serious impact! The hosts went on to win the match 41-18 in a much-improved performance.
However, they were hit with a reality check the following week, when eventual winners of the competition, Wales, beat them 40-24. The same poor discipline that affected England against Scotland haunted them again, leading to high numbers of penalties being conceded. In what turned out to be a very up and down tournament for England, they played France next. The match can only be described as scintillating, ending 23-20 to England via a late try from Maro Itoje. It was a fantastic show of attacking rugby, with both teams giving their all.
The final match of England’s Six Nations campaign saw them play Ireland - there wasn’t anything to play for but pride for both teams. England finished the tournament in the same lacklustre fashion they started it in, losing 32-18. At the end of that very disappointing campaign, fans were left with many queries, ranging from questions on England’s defensive style of play to is Eddie Jones – is he really the right man for the job?
Onwards and upwards with a squad of fresh faces
Due to the pandemic and the strict rules in South Africa, Eddie Jones was forced to name 22 uncapped players in his squad for the Summer Series. Why did the rules in South Africa matter? Well, that’s where the Lions were touring, therefore many of the England regulars were called upon to represent. England played against the USA and Canada in what was a fantastic opportunity to implement the changes required after such a dismal Six Nations. Jones used the experience of players like Ellis Genge, Sam Underhill and Henry Slade to bed in the young prospects of Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward and Adam Radwan to name a few.
England comfortably beat the USA 43-29 and then emphatically beat Canada 70-14; they played an expansive attacking form of rugby which appealed to the eye of the fans, who had their faiths restored in the team. These victories and the emergence of some exciting talent meant England fans were anticipating some fantastic matches in the Autumn. Adding to this was some brilliant performances from Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry and Maro Itoje on Lions duty, even though the tourists were defeated 2-1 in the series – Read more about the Lions here.
Emphatic England conquer the World Champions
England went into the Autumn Nations Series full of optimism and no fear with a squad full of young prospects and experienced regulars. The first test was against heavy-hitting Tonga, where England won 69-3 in comprehensive fashion. Henry Slade was in fine form creating many breaks for England; tries from Radwan, May, Itoje, Smith and others contributed to the free-flowing display. Next up was Australia, who were eager to perform, after coming off the back of a 15-13 loss to Scotland. However, England put on another great display of attacking rugby, winning 32-15; although the win wasn’t straight forward as some ill-discipline kept Australia in the tie. Man of the match was England’s first try-scorer Freddie Steward; the full back put on a fantastic performance under the high ball and always looked a threat in possession.
Finally, England hosted the World Champions South Africa; England were optimistic that they could avenge their World Cup final defeat from 2019, and rightly so. Although South Africa dominated territory and were battering the England forward, Eddie Jones’ men held firm, securing the victory with a Marcus Smith special – an all-important 79th minute penalty. Man of the moment Freddie Steward performed to his very high standards and was consistently supported by Henry Slade too. England were certainly hampered by injuries to their usual forward pack, yet there’s lots of positives to take into the new year. If you’d like a more in-depth review of the 2021 Autumn Series, read this blog.
What’s Next for Eddie Jones and England’s Merry Men
After an amazing year of rugby in 2021, thoughts now turn to the 2022 edition of the Guinness Six Nations to kick off an exciting year of rugby. Ireland and France were outstanding in the 2021 Autumn Nations Series, both beating the All Blacks whilst Wales narrowly lost to the Springboks. Scotland also presented some stellar rugby performances – it won’t be an easy ride for the home side.
England will need to solve some inconsistencies in their scrum – we’re sure that the return of Joe Marler and Jamie George will solve that problem.
Owen Farrell is unlikely to be fit for the trip to Edinburgh, so it will be interesting if England can continue to play the expansive attacking rugby with Smith, Steward and Slade pulling the strings. Looking at France and Ireland, England will need to be at their sparkling best to win.
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