All 34 players who trained with England in the Algarve last week have regathered in Bagshot in preparation for Saturday’s opening Test of the Old Mutual Wealth Series. The fitness of Courtney Lawes to face South Africa remains uncertain but Eddie Jones has a range of other options to consider.
In a week where the Chicago Cubs finally put the curse of the Billy Goat to bed, there was no shortage of people here who thought Ireland were about to do something similar with the monkey on their back.
The last time England’s rugby players came out to Portugal to prepare for a big game against South Africa was in 2007 during the brief reign as head coach of Brian Ashton.
Owen Farrell is in a striking mood today. It is almost surprising to compare how relaxed and amiable he appears in contrast to the intense and often fiery man who plays for Saracens and England.
The first game of the Five Nations rugby championship in 1995 was not a happy one for Ireland.
Sometimes it is less the number of games a sportsman plays than the heart and soul he pours into the jersey he wears.
England’s injury crisis has deepened after Mike Williams became the fourth flanker to be ruled out of the entire autumn series.
Eddie Jones expects England to provide at least 15 players in the British and Irish Lions’ squad – almost half the touring party to New Zealand next year – and will regard it as a personal failure if that target is not reached. But the Australian also warned his players that unless they maintained the required standard for England and avoid letting the Lions tour to the home of the world champions become a distraction they risk missing out altogether on Warren Gatland’s selection.
It has been a long time coming but the new heads of agreement between the RFU and Premier Rugby is set to be announced by the end of this month and Eddie Jones says he is “completely satisfied” with the deal.
The list of grand slam hopefuls who have flown too close to the sun and fallen to earth is long and distinguished but England's supporters are running short of reasons to be pessimistic.
Few would argue against the fact that the best Six Nations Championships are the ones that finish with a Grand Slam.
The acrimonious buildup to England’s final autumn Test against Australia looks set to spill over on to the pitch after Eddie Jones warned the Wallabies his side would look to “break them mentally and physically”. The lock George Kruis indicated the home team would be looking to “target their puppet masters” and extend their unbeaten run to a record-equalling 14 Tests.
Back at the start of the month, South Africa’s head coach, Allister Coetzee, was asked about the “aura” of his side.
Eddie Jones has warned England’s record‑equalling players they will be summarily dropped if they allow their standards to slip next year.
Odd little memories stand out crystal clear from the great mêlée of Saturday’s match, which was otherwise one long blur of flying bodies, boots and balls, reset scrums, rolling substitutions, red and yellow cards.
Perhaps it was the embarrassment of being the first Australian coach to lose a home series to England that did it, or possibly it was being mocked up as a clown last month.
The last time South Africa lost all their autumn Tests they at least went down swinging.
Eddie Jones’s all-or-nothing regime is designed to weed out England players who are not where they should be physically. Training is deliberately full-on, with 11 successive wins under Jones this year testimony to a more ruthless collective mindset. Even individuals recently sidelined by injury are expected to keep up or risk getting overtaken.