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Can England win the Six Nations?

It has been all change for England since their disappointing Autumn Nations Series campaign and the Red Rose head into the Six Nations with a new coaching team in place.

Eddie Jones' inability to get his side playing consistently almost ever since reaching the final of the 2019 World Cup prompted the RFU to dismiss the Australian and replace him with former captain Steve Borthwick.

Borthwick had previously been part of the coaching set-up and led Leicester Tigers to Premiership glory last June.

With the RFU still the wealthiest union in the game, Borthwick has been able to hand-pick his lieutenants. This includes his defence coach from Tigers, rugby league legend Kevin Sinfield, while the attacking berth has been filled by former All Black fly-half Nick Evans.

Forwards coach Richard Cockerill is the only man still standing from the previous regime, but he and the new recruits all have evident pedigree within the game.

While recording a better return than last season's two wins is a minimum, the ambitious coaching quartet will have loftier goals, namely winning the Six Nations for a record-extending eighth time and 40th overall.

What2023 Six Nations
WhereLondon, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Dublin, Paris and Rome
WhenSaturday 4th February - Saturday 18th March
How to watchBBC and ITV
OddsIreland 11/8, France 6/4, England 9/2, Wales 14/1, Scotland 20/1, Italy 500/1

Tough draw but one that offers chance to grow

For the third straight year England begin their Six Nations campaign with a Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland.

The Scots have won the last two renewals of the annual contest and are aiming to make it three in a row for the first time since 1970-72.

Gregor Townsend looks to have as much, if not more, talent at his disposal than in recent years, but his team have been plagued by inconsistency since he took over in 2017.

England are just 2/9 in the Game Betting 3-Way on Saturday 4th February, but either way, that should be followed by a similar result against Italy on Sunday 12th.

After a fortnight off, England resume their campaign against Wales in Cardiff, with the Welsh another side to have changed coach, reappointing Warren Gatland after the rollercoaster ride that was Wayne Pivac's time in charge.

The world rankings suggest that England's first three matches are their easiest, before they host France at Twickenham on 11th March and conclude their campaign a week later with their 'Super Saturday' clash against Ireland in Dublin.

Few would argue against the notion that last year's Grand Slam champions France and the world number one-ranked Irish are the strongest teams in the competition.

However, were England to win their first three games, they would already have eclipsed the two victories they collected in both 2021 and 2022 and would almost have a free pass heading into the final fortnight.

Momentum is so important in the Six Nations and the fixture list gives them a perfect chance to build into the tournament, meaning a good start could lead to a successful finish, with England 9/2 To Win Outright.

Borthwick set to go back to basics

Jones' insistence on playing without a ball carrier at inside centre may not be repeated by Borthwick. The Australian was keen to have playmakers in both the 10 and 12 shirts, but with Owen Farrell named captain, he could be shifted into the fly-half berth and Marcus Smith jettisoned to the bench.

This would allow Manu Tuilagi or Dan Kelly to crash the ball up off first phase ball and then give Farrell and a secondary midfield facilitator such as Henry Slade the space to spread the play from the 13 channel.

A more basic approach might be needed for England to improve after the somewhat muddled tactics that plagued the latter days of Jones' reign, especially with a matter of months to go until the World Cup.

However, there is no doubt that Smith is England's form fly-half and it would be a big call for Borthwick to start the tournament without the man who looks the most likely to play at 10 for the British & Irish Lions in 2025.

Related Rugby Union News

Six Nations: England squad profile

Six Nations: Steve Borthwick names England squad

Six Nations Stars: Owen Farrell

Injuries could mean a fresh look

That said, a more straightforward approach behind the pack could be complemented by a different direction up front, with injuries hurting some established names, but potentially offering opportunities for younger players.

With Luke Cowan-Dickie sidelined and concussion worries surrounding Jamie George, the hooking berth could be available for the uncapped Jack Walker, especially with George McGuigan withdrawing from the training camp.

Meanwhile, a calf injury means vice-captain Courtney Lawes is a doubt for the opener against Scotland with a calf injury, while fellow flanker Tom Curry is likely to miss at least the first two matches of the tournament due to a hamstring problem.

The Red Rose have a very like-for-like replacement for Curry, with his twin brother Ben included in the squad, while Ben Earl and Jack Willis are also in form, as is the versatile Lewis Ludlam.

With Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds battling for the number eight shirt, there is a freshness to the pack and dynamism on both sides of the ball.

If Borthwick's side do win the Six Nations, it would boost hopes of a second Webb Ellis Cup, with a price of 28/1 available for England to win the Six Nations and the World Cup, while 40/1 is the price for England to win the Grand Slam and the World Cup.

The depth of England's player pool has never been in doubt and when Jones got it right, his side were irresistible. The Red Rose currently look some distance from there, especially with injuries to leaders like Curry, Lawes and George hanging over the squad.

However, one player's loss is another's opportunity and there are sure to be those who put their hands up with one eye on the World Cup.

Ireland and France are the form teams heading into the Championship, but with Borthwick wiping the slate clean, England's favourable early fixtures give them a chance to go all the way in the Six Nations.

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