After a narrow defeat to Scotland and a regulation win over Italy, a new-look England side is yet to show what they are really about in the 2022 Six Nations Championship. With some established names either out of the picture or injured, head coach Eddie Jones is working with new faces who look set to represent England at the 2023 Rugby Union World Cup in France.
Red Rose lacked an edge in Edinburgh
A trip to Murrayfield was always going to be a tricky start to England’s 2022 campaign, especially with the likes of Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, and Courtney Lawes all out on the sidelines. It gave an opportunity for Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith to impress in the No.10 jersey and he did just that.
The 23-year-old scored what looked like a second-half try to take the game away from the Scots, only for the hosts to come back and secure a 20-17 win in Edinburgh. England, who are now +500 in the Six Nations 2022 odds to win the tournament, enjoyed much of the territory and possession but were unable to make it count against the Scots.
After the disappointment of back-to-back defeats against Scotland for the first time since 1984, a trip to Rome was ideal to instill confidence from everyone back into England’s ranks.
With more fresh faces in the starting lineup, England had little trouble getting back at the Italians and ran out 33-0 winners at the Stadio Olimpico. Marcus Smith once again looked calm and composed in his playmaker role and finished the day with a total of 13 points to his name, including a second try of the tournament. However, it is hard to see what England will have learned from their expected win over the Azzurri in the Eternal City.
Biggest tests to come
England will look to take the positivity gained from their Italy win into their final three games of the competition, as they prepare to host Wales and Ireland before a trip to Paris on the final weekend. Wales themselves are a somewhat unknown quantity after being thumped by Ireland in Dublin, before a gritty performance to beat Scotland in Cardiff.
As for the Irish, head coach Andy Farrell and his side will still harbour ambitions of a Six Nations title, despite a 30-24 defeat against the French. Ireland and Wales heading to Twickenham will give England opportunities to show where they really stand as they head closer towards the 2023 World Cup in France.
It will take a big effort to come through those games in London with victories. However, if they do manage to claim back-to-back wins at Twickenham, then a mouthwatering final game against France in Paris is what awaits us.
Building up to the 2022 Six Nations, there were suggestions that this could be the most open title race in the tournament’s history. It certainly seems to be shaping up that way and this new-look England side will be determined to make themselves part of the title conversation when the time comes for the final round.