England's Six Nations improvements ignites Premiership anticipation

Ben Earl was one of England's top performers at last year's World Cup and continued that theme in the Six Nations
©Photo by Michael Steele - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

As the dust settles on the Six Nations battlefield, England have emerged with their heads held high, hoping to carry the momentum of a successful campaign into the resumption of the Gallagher Premiership.

The tournament, fraught with anticipation and fervour, witnessed England's resurgence, marked by a symphony of skill, resilience, and unwavering determination.

At the heart of their renaissance lies an attack that has finally found its rhythm, igniting hope and excitement amongst supporters. Throughout the campaign, glimpses of brilliance did illuminate the field, particularly in encounters against Ireland and France.

When it comes to the Six Nations, Andy Farrell’s side are still the ones to beat but England were the team that stepped up to the plate.

With Marcus Smith’s drop goal at Twickenham, crowds erupted as they ended Ireland’s Grand Slam dreams and although Thomas Ramos’ late penalty for France broke England hearts, the championships did mark a turning point for Steve Borthwick’s side.

England’s newfound dynamism and evolution of tactics - combined with the camaraderie and unity within the squad - has laid a formidable foundation for what is on the horizon.

Looking ahead, a trip to New Zealand headlines the summer and it offers England an opportunity to test their mettle - and their progress - against last year’s World Cup finalists.

Buoyed by their improvements in the Six Nations, Borthwick’s troops will now approach their two Tests against the All Blacks with a sense of purpose and determination, eager to prove themselves further in the southern hemisphere.

Without a doubt, defeating New Zealand in New Zealand will be a difficult task but if some of England’s standout performers from the Six Nations can translate their form back into the Premiership, then Borthwick’s side will believe they can topple the three-time world champions.

Among them, Tommy Freeman stands tall, his blistering pace and elusive running making him a potent threat. He had a strong Six Nations campaign and capped it off by scoring a try in last week’s defeat to France.

In the engine room, Ollie Chessum has emerged as a colossus, his imposing presence and tireless work ethic providing the platform for success. The 23-year-old is also becoming an increasingly effective ball-carrier and could be instrumental for England's attacking opportunities going forward.

In the backline, the mercurial talents of George Ford shone brightly. His deft playmaking and tactical acumen guided England's attacking endeavours with precision.

In addition, his leadership and composure under pressure have been invaluable assets, inspiring confidence and belief among his teammates. Despite Marcus Smith’s heroics against Ireland, the No.10 shirt stayed in Ford’s possession.

And of course, Ben Earl. Where to begin? His dynamism, work rate and ferociousness in contact have made him one of the first names on Borthwick’s teamsheet.

He was outstanding throughout the Six Nations with his explosive running and astute decision-making, unlocking opposition defences with devastating effect. His multiple attributes will most certainly provide a spark for Saracens as the champions aim to solidify their place in the Premiership’s top four.

Meanwhile, league leaders Northampton will look to the aforementioned Freeman - along with the likes of Alex Mitchell and George Furbank - to reignite their pursuit of Premiership silverware.

Third-placed Bath will welcome back Ollie Lawrence with open arms, especially after the headaches he caused both Ireland and France while Harlequins (2nd) will have Smith chomping at the bit.

With Leicester Tigers currently on the cusp of the play-offs, Chessum's physicality - along with partner in crime George Martin as well as Wales’ Tommy Reffell - will be crucial to their semi-final chances while Sale will need Ford's guile to propel them towards success.

How it stands in the Premiership…

Leaders Northampton are currently on a 10-game winning streak across all competitions and with attention now shifting to the final six matches of the regular season, the Saints will be keen to lock in a home semi-final.

Phil Dowson’s side resume their campaign at Bristol Bears (8th) on Friday night. Last season, they suffered a 62-8 defeat at Ashton Gate, but now have a seventh consecutive Premiership victory in their sights.

Also on Friday, Leicester (6th) and Gloucester (9th) will renew acquaintances after the Cherry and Whites came out on top in last week’s Premiership Rugby Cup final.

George Skivington’s charges won 23-13 at Kingsholm and although the Tigers missed out on an initial chance of silverware, their victory away at Harlequins just before the Six Nations break might be a sign of things to come.

On Saturday, Owen Farrell is set to mark his 250th appearance for Saracens when they welcome rivals Quins to the StoneX while Bath and Sale (7th) meet at The Rec with Exeter Chiefs (5th) hosting Newcastle Falcons (10th).

On the Chiefs, winger Immanuel Feyi-Waboso committed his long-term future to the club on Wednesday and after his display in England’s triumph over Ireland, no wonder Rob Baxter and co see the 21-year-old’s future at Sandy Park.

As for the Falcons, their visit to Devon will be the first opportunity for the Steve Diamond-led era to get firmly underway.