The Six Nations has a habit of throwing up any number of surprises and none more so than the way England have been steamrolling through two of the best teams in the competition to put themselves in control of championship.
It is undoubtedly a far cry from twelve months ago when it appeared all of Eddie Jones work was starting to unravel as defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield in week three was quickly followed up with a loss in week four to the French and finally to Ireland in week five (and perhaps more critically) at Twickenham.
At the time, it was easy to be critical, but Jones is not a man to be trifled with.
After all, this is still a man who guided the Red Roses to eighteen successive wins upon taking charge of the national side and it was clear to those in the know that Jones was attempting to prepare his side to react to how conditions may be in the World Cup in Japan.
A shrewd move perhaps and with the all important Six Nations now upon us, Jones is out to find his best fifteen.
After two rounds, it is hardly surprising to see England instilled as favourites to lift the Six Nations at 2/9 with Betway as of the 11/02/19. Perhaps more remarkably is that England are still viewed as odds on at 4/5 to win the Six Nations Grand Slam.
With England such overwhelming favourites, there is a danger of getting a little to carried away as roll back twelve months, and England were in a similar position before the wheels came off.
Except for one noticeable difference.
England started against minnows Italy which (no disrespect) is effectively a free-pass. This time starting out away at the number two test ranked team in the world in Ireland had many fearing the worst for the Red Roses but the rest is history.
Up next was France at Twickenham and again the rest is history and so two of the three realistic contenders have been duped by Eddies Jones England.
Performances have been of the highest order on the pitch with the behind the scenes work going on at Surrey resort Penny Hill Park clearly paying dividends off the pitch.
So, its all over then, may as well hand the Six Nations to England and be done with it, right? Not quite.
You see, there is the small matter of Wales and Scotland to contend with before we get the bunting out (oh, and Italy too). Wales know that they are the have the best chance of denying England a shot at the Grand Slam with most fans and pundits calling this the decider. A little too early perhaps but the way the fixtures have fallen it would be hard to see Scotland or Italy being able to deny Eddie Jones men.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland and England gaffer Eddie Jones have plenty of history and not all of it pretty but the pair seem to have made up with both in optimistic mood ahead of what promises to be a titanic tussle.
However, in true Jones fashion, he couldn’t pass up the chance to goad his opposition by claiming that he is about to pit his wits against the greatest Wales side there ever was.
How that will work to stoke Gatland up as the ambitious Kiwi has made it clear the target for 2019 is a Six Nations/World Cup double which would be quite a remarkable feat.
Twelve months ago, England came through a defence minded game to win 12 points to 6 with another tight game set to ensue.
However, England’s attack minded play, especially with the in-form Jonny May at Jones’ disposal can only give the edge to the English even if Wales did go into France’s back yard and turn them over in week one. Should the Welsh fail to deny England then last chance saloon falls to the Scots.
They did it last year in a triumphant 25-13 victory at Murrayfield.
Once again though England are a different prospect entirely this season as last year was more of trial and error ahead of what looks set to be the big one this year.
They say in sport that peaking at the right time is vital and that all preparation goes into just that.
It may be a little to early to judge just yet but so far, the signs are looking good for Eddie Jones men ahead of the showpiece in Japan later in the year.
It is now up to Wales and Scotland to show the rest of the world whether they are up to the task of stopping England and mounting their own viable assault on the rest of the world.
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