Rugby Union: England seek third straight Six Nations title as they step up preparations for World Cup
PUBLISHED: 09:00 19 January 2018
PA Archive/PA Images
In an article from our 'Year In Sport' pullout, the next 12 months for Eddie Jones' men are previewed
Sandwiched between a British & Irish Lions tour and a World Cup, 2018 might not look the most glamorous of years for rugby union.
However, England head coach Eddie Jones is acutely aware of how important the next 12 months could be towards ensuring success in Japan in 18 months time.
The Red Roses start the year chasing a third successive Six Nations title, and will want a Grand Slam too, having fallen just short of achieving a second successive one in 2017.
Skippered once again by Northampton Saints hooker Dylan Hartley, the two-time defending champions begin their campaign away in Italy on February 4.
England return home on February 10 to host Wales at Twickenham, before travelling to Scotland two weeks later.
The Red Roses then head for France on March 10, before ending the Six Nations once again against Ireland, although this time at rugby HQ.
Like he did in the autumn, Jones may regularly rotate his starting XV this spring, giving a chance to some of the country’s brightest talents.
The likes of Saracens wing Nathan Earle, Bath prop Beno Obano and Exeter Chiefs flanker Sam Simmonds may all be given an opportunity to impress.
A summer tour to South Africa then awaits England, though with the Springboks faltering at prseent, it no longer looks the arduous challenge it once was.
The first Test takes place in Johannesburg on June 9, before games in Bloemfontein (June 16) and Cape Town (June 30).
Jones’ men then end the year with four Tests in four weeks against four different nations in November.
The Springboks are the opposition again when England begin their Autumn Internationals on November 3.
A week later, New Zealand are in town for a hotly-anticipated clash between the top two teams in the world.
The Red Roses then entertain Japan – the hosts of next year’s World Cup and Jones’ former employers – on November 17, before welcoming Australia a week later.
Aside from the internationals, east London fans have the treat of an Aviva Premiership match in the area to look forward to.
Two-time defending European Cup champions Saracens have moved their home league game with Harlequins on March 24 to the London Stadium.