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These are dark rugby days in England, with the horrible prospect of future times growing darker. English rugby fans must deal with the fact that the national team lost its fifth Test match in a row, a 23-12 tour loss to South Africa away last weekend. The Springboks are guaranteed winning the three-game series as they won the first contest two weeks ago. In that game, in the first half, England lead by 21 points only to collapse as South Africa rallied to win 42-39.
The angst, the desperation being felt in England began with the team not advancing in to the quarterfinal round of the 2015 Rugby World Cup (hosted by England) when they lost to Australia and Wales in pool play. But a post RWC coaching change to Aussie Eddie Jones quickly produced startling and exciting results. England reeled off an 18-game win skein (Tying the All Blacks record for most consecutive Test wins) and a 2016 Six Nation title with a Grand Slam (winning all five contests). This followed with a three-game, undefeated win streak against Australia away on tour.
“Oh, to be in England now that winning‘s there.”
In March of 2017, Ireland ended England’s 18-game skein (as the Irish had accomplished also with their memorable win against the All Blacks in Chicago). What followed for the Red Roses was a 7-0 win streak that brought their 26-game total to 25-1 since the end of the 2015 RWC and weeks of being ranked second to New Zealand.
But in the third round of the 2017 Six Nations Championship, the bottom fell out of English rugby (most noticeably, how they would or might perform in the 2019 RWC in Japan).
First up was a loss to Scotland at Murrayfield in the Calcutta Cup. Then, another away defeat, this time in Paris as the French won 22-16. Returning home to Twickenham gave hopes that the final contest against Ireland would reverse fortune. The Irish won handily 24-15. A 2-3 record represented the historic lowest Six/Five Nations result ever for England.
Then, the recent two losses to South Africa with the third match this weekend.
Up ahead for England, are autumn home matches against these same Springboks and the All Blacks. Then 2019 Six Nations Championship.
English rugby fans with a long-distance gaze into the future will realize that for the RWC 2019, the Red Roses are in the pool of deep talent, which includes Argentina and France. And this past weekend, these same rooters witnessed the USA defeat Scotland. The Eagles (and Tonga) are also in this same RWC 2019 pool.
Dark days when the possibility of not moving into the RWC quarterfinals for the second tournament looms as a fifty-fifty proposition.