England Rugby (penned 27/02/17)
Can England win back to back Six Nation championships? If they beat Scotland they will have established a joint record - 18 - consecutive wins in a row in International rugby without having to play New Zealand.
To be honest there have not really been any surprises in the Six Nations Championship to date (Round 3 completed: two rounds to go). Okay Scotland beating a below par Wales for the first time for a decade is worth mentioning in dispatches but a Scotland which beats England at Twickenham on 11th March would be seismic.
England have yet to find their best form of last year though they are the only side which can win the Grand Slam. To do this they must beat the aforesaid Scots and then travel to Dublin the following week for a difficult game against Ireland. It is rare to win back to back Grand Slams (there have only been five since the championship started) and England did it last in 1991/2. Ireland are never easy at home.
England should be too strong for Scotland but with nothing to play for but pride the Irish - buoyed by St Patrick's Day on 17th March - will offer the toughest resistance. They have already shown they can raise their game for an important fixture having defeated the All Blacks in Chicago back in November (a first ever win for the Irish). I count myself lucky that I have a couple of tickets for Aviva Stadium which should see an epic finish to this year's competition.
International sides have started to take England's form seriously. It did seem at one time as if both France and Wales would beat them this season but the team has found hidden reserves at critical points in both games. I think that is a bonus with the two toughest fixtures still to play.
The game rugby fans play in pubs throughout the world is how many of their side would make the All Blacks current team (they won the World Cup in 2011 and 2015). For England, there is probably only one, Mario Itoje, who could press a claim but he has been a little off the pace since coming back from injury in December. This shows you how far England has to travel to be serious contenders in Japan to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The forwards are beginning to settle though the front and back rows still have much to prove. In the backs, Ford is susceptible in defence but reads the game well. I expect there will be changes on the wing and at fullback for the Scottish fixture.