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Billy Vunipola Returns For Calcutta Cup Clash With Scotland

England will have talismanic number eight Billy Vunipola back in the matchday squad for their Six Nations clash with Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Eddie Jones has trimmed his 30-man squad down to 24 ahead of the Calcutta Cup game and after his impressive comeback for Saracens at weekend, Vunipola will make his much awaited comeback for England – after missing three months of action with a knee injury.

The 24-year-old was injured playing against Fiji in the Autumn Internationals and has missed all four England games since then.

But in 2016 there was no doubt he was the most influential player in the side; with his destructive ball carrying, powerful defence and tireless work-rate setting the tone for the men in white.

Nathan Hughes has proved to be an able deputy in the absence of Vunipola, but England are in the privileged position of being able bring the world’s best number eight back into the side.

Jones has also retained centre Jonathan Joseph and winger Anthony Watson in his squad. Joseph had been rested for the Italy game in round three – with Ben Te’o starting at 13 alongside Owen Farrell.

But the influential Bath man looks set to be recalled to the side for this huge encounter. Watson is another player recently returning from injury and many expected him to be part of the squad to face Italy, however he was released back to Bath to improve his match sharpness.

Should England beat Scotland they will equal the longest ever winning streak (18) in Test Match history, set by New Zealand between 2015 and 2016 – which was ended by Ireland in Chicago last November.

In the final game of the Six Nations, England will travel to Dublin and Joe Schmidt’s side could be in the same position they found themselves in against the All Blacks in the Autumn.

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As the Six Nations reaches its climax we turn our attention towards the 2017 Old Mutual Wealth Autumn Internationals, Eventmasters will once again be providing the finest official England Rugby hospitality packages for these three great games – please follow the links below.

England v Argentina – Autumn Internationals

England v Australia – Autumn Internationals

England v Samoa – Autumn Internationals

England start Six Nations title defence with win against France

England v France – Six Nations Match Report

Well, England dug out a 19-16 victory somehow against France in the Six Nations, but it wasn’t pretty.

It can hopefully only get better from here. The best you can say is that the Red Rose stuck at it and with the massive help of their substitutes just got over the line 19-16 at Twickenham.

The French must have been hugely disappointed, and deservedly so. They showed the flair in the three quarters – not quite the French of old but not far off – and England didn’t.

Some lovely breaks, while Louis Picamoles was given Man of the Match. It was a kind of game of two halves, the French in the ascendency in the first and England in the second.

9-9 at half time through penalties, both sides managed a try apiece in the second period, Rabah Slimani for the visitors and Ben Te’o touching down for England.

England started slowly and were put off their stride by a Johnny May yellow card. The injury-enforced changes in the back-row didn’t help. The hosts were extremely fortunate to go in all square after 40 minutes.

Jonathan Joseph - Twickenham Six Nations Hospitality

Jonathan Joseph takes on the French defence at Twickenham

England began to click into the second period as James Haskell came on and made a difference. But in truth England were fortunate and the French were unlucky.

Eddie Jones was diplomatic at the end but must have been quietly fuming. But, first game up, it must have been encouraging that his side had played extremely indifferently yet still won.

France coach Guy Noves, a double-take for Theresa May’s husband Philip, will be ruing how England’s Brexit rugby prevailed.

England v France – Six Nations Twickenham Stoop Hospitality Reviews

Eventmasters VIP guests were treated to a superb afternoon of corporate hospitality inside the the Twickenham Stoop.

Twickenham Stoop VIP hospitality - England v France Six Nations 2017

Guests enjoy VIP hospitality inside the Twickenham Stoop.

Ahead of the game guests were treated to fascinating insight into the game as Tim Stimpson (England & British Lions International) spoke with England hooker Rob Webber.

Alongside this clients were treated to a sumptuous four-course dining experience, complimentary bar and the finest official RFU match tickets to enjoy the action as England secured a record-breaking 15th consecutive win.

Rob Webber and Tim Stimpson

Rob Webber and Tim Stimpson offer their thoughts ahead of England v France

After the game our guests returned to the Twickenham Stoop facility and enjoyed wonderful post-match food and refreshments. The perfect way to end a superb (and sometimes nervy) afternoon of world-class international rugby.

This level of expertise makes the Twickenham Stoop hospitality packages the outstanding option for entertaining guests at England Internationals.

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The Autumn Internationals are one of the major highlights of the international rugby calendar as the best sides from the Southern Hemisphere head to Europe for their end of season tours. In 2017 England face three crucial fixtures at Twickenham Argentina, Australia and Samoa.

Please see our Twickenham Autumn Internationals hospitality page for more information.

England name side for Six Nations opener at Twickenham

Eddie Jones has named his starting XV for England’s Six Nations opener with France at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Australian has recalled Elliot Daly, Joe Launchbury and Maro Itoje to his side – with the Itoje making his first Test Match start at blindside flanker.

Daly returns to the left wing, in what will be his first England start since his red card against Argentina in the Old Mutual Wealth Autumn Internationals. Launchbury also returns from an England ban, after missing the final two games of the autumn series.

Injuries have forced Jones to reshuffle his side, with Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, George Kruis, Chris Robshaw and Anthony Watson all missing.

In the absence of the Vunipola brothers, Nathan Hughes will start at number eight, while Joe Marler returns to the side at loosehead prop – just one month after fracturing his leg playing for Harlequins.

On the bench there are recalls for Jack Nowell and James Haskell, who haven’t featured for England since the summer tour of Australia, which saw the side claim a historic series whitewash.

Many had expected Exeter winger Nowell to come straight into the starting XV, but after missing two days of training in the week for personal reasons, Jones has opted to use the livewire back as a replacement.

Jones Ready For Physical French Challenge At Twickenham

England enter Saturday’s clash knowing that a 15th consecutive would see them break their all-time record, set in 2002/03.

But Jones knows that the French will pose a major challenge to England’s perfect record – especially given their revival during the Autumn Internationals.

“Guy Noves likes a big team. He picks a traditional French forward pack with squat front-rowers who scrummage well, big locks who give a lot of ballast and athletic back-rowers.

“It’s based on size and crunching that gain line, getting an offload and then playing with flair.

“Of course, this gives you an opportunity when you’ve got a big forward pack against you and we intend to exploit that.”

England team to face France: Mike Brown; Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley (captain), Dan Cole; Joe Launchbury; Courtney Lawes; Maro Itoje, Tom Wood, Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: Jamie George, Matt Mullan, Kyle Sinckler, Teimana Harrison, James Haskell, Danny Care, Ben Te’o, Jack Nowell.

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Six Nations – Smith could offer breakdown expertise

Eddie Jones could call upon one of his former Australian stars, with George Smith in line to help England during the 2016 RBS Six Nations.

Wasps are willing to let the Wallaby legend assist the national side providing it doesn’t interfere with his playing duties. Over the weekend Jones revealed that he has offered Jonny Wilkinson a chance to join his staff and this latest potential move will excite fans.

England have endured well documented problems at the breakdown over the past four years, due to a combination of selection and technical issues. It is hoped that Smith’s expertise in this area can transform England’s fortunes.

England face two crucial games at Twickenham during the 2016 RBS Six Nations. England face defending champions Ireland (Saturday 27th February) in what promises to be another classic encounter. Jones’s side then face Wales (Saturday 12th March) as England look to avenge their infamous World Cup loss.

After his first press conference last week Jones indicated his desire to get Smith involved saying, “Whether we can get him to come and work… I don’t know whether Wasps will let him come with us.”

The 35-year-old won 111 caps for Australia and has been one of Wasps best performers this season, particularly at the ruck where he continues to win crucial turnovers.

Smith has told the Daily Mail that he would be open to the idea of once again working alongside Jones, saying “If he (Jones) does come calling, I would definitely listen to him because he’s a person who I do regard highly.”

Who will be openside in the Six Nations?

Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young has said he wouldn’t stand in Smith’s way if England come calling, “I wouldn’t stand in his way. I know that Eddie has a relationship with George going back a long way.

“We are here to support England and their management and if we can help, we will. If George could be of assistance – rather than being an assistant – helping the national team do well, and it doesn’t affect what we are doing, then I’ve got no problem with it.”

England have two potential candidates for the number seven jersey for the RBS Six Nations 2016. Matt Kvesic has been one of the Premierships form opensides in the last 18 months and is probably the most skilled at the breakdown.

Jack Clifford is an exciting young talent with bags of potential. He is a powerful and dynamic ball carrier and while his is still learning his craft at the ruck he could become an England regular if his rate of improvement continues.

It is exciting to think how well either one of these players could perform under the tutelage of one of the game’s greatest ever flankers.

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Six Nations 2016 – Wilkinson offered England role

England head coach has revealed that he has offered England Rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson the chance to join his coaching team for the RBS Six Nations 2016.

Since taking the role in December, Jones has recruited some of the most promising young coaches in Europe in Steve Borthwick and Paul Gustard. Now he wants Wilkinson to join his England revolution after meeting the fly-half in a supermarket.

Jones and Wilkinson were adversaries in 2003 when England famously beat Australia thanks to Wilkinson’s last gasp drop goal. ‘Wilko’ went on to win 91 caps and score over 1,000 points in Test rugby during his stellar career.

He finished his career in the south of France with Toulon winning the European Champions Cup on two occasions. Since his retirement in 2014, the 36-year-old has been working on a part-time basis as a coach with Toulon.

England fans will certainly be excited at the prospect of seeing Wilkinson work with England during the Six Nations.

Jones wants Wilkinson involved in Six Nations

Jones spoke about the meeting with Wilkinson saying: “We would like to get Jonny involved, but he’s quite a private person. We are having chats about it. I saw him down at Waitrose shopping with a beanie over his head. I had coffee with him.”

There is no doubt Wilkinson remains one of the most hardworking and dedicated men in sport, despite his retirement and Jones said “After we had coffee he went and did a kicking session and he doesn’t play anymore. Why was he one of the best in the world? Because he did that. That’s the difference.”

Jones will be hoping the work-ethic and attention to detail that made Wilkinson the world’s best player for many years will rub off the new group of players. In his first Six Nations squad, Jones selected seven uncapped players and he spoke about how Wilkinson and the other coaches could help these players become global stars.

“Our job as coaches is to create that environment where players are encouraged to do that – we can’t tell them to do it. Anywhere in the world the good players tend to rise up and there should be a gap between the really good players and the average players.

“A good player has that little bit extra, and we are talking about two or three per cent extra. He does that little bit of extra analysis, stretches, goes for a swim and takes a bag of balls to kick.”

England face two huge games at Twickenham during the Six Nations 2016. On Saturday 27th February they face defending champions Ireland in a mouth-watering clash. Then on Saturday 12th March they will be looking for revenge against rivals Wales after their World Cup loss.

If you are interested in our Twickenham hospitality packages for the 2016 Six Nations please click here.

Image Credit – Simon Williams (Flickr)

Six Nations 2016 – New Dawn for England

So, did you get all the names right in Eddie Jones first England squad for the 2016 RBS Six Nations?

I thought not! We all expected the Aussie import would make brave decisions and he hasn’t disappointed. England begin their Six Nations campaign with a trip to Murrayfield to face Scotland on Saturday 6th February and there will be new faces a plenty.

But is he right?

With the dust settling on Wednesday’s announcement of his 33-strong England rugby squad for the Six Nations there is time to reflect on the wider implications. They are intriguing and still plenty of room for argument among fans and armchair know-it-alls.

A host of players have been shown the door following the failure to qualify for the knockout stages of last year’s home World Cup.

Chris Robshaw is retained but no Tom Wood, Brad Barritt, Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan, Tom Youngs or Joe Marler. Morgan and Parling have been hampered by injury, but hard-as-nails Wood is a surprise outcast. As is Youngs.

If you opt for flair at centre then there is no place for the more defensive-minded Barritt.And, if the World Cup failure told us anything, it is that England need more from their centres.

No Luther Burrell either and Danny Cipriani has again missed out despite fine form for Sale.

Hard to see where that leaves Cipriani – a case of mercurial brilliance unfulfilled at the highest level. What a tragedy. Indeed the pivotal positions, fly half and scrum half, are little changed.

It is Ford and Farrell again at No 10, surely something of a disappointment. They don’t frighten the very best.

At No 9 it remains Ben Youngs or Danny Care. Both have a talent for making a game-changing break.

Jones has chosen to recall Dylan Hartley from disciplinary exile but the equally excitable Manu Tuilagi is deemed temporarily not fit enough to join the squad after a long injury layoff.

However Chris Ashton returns on the wing.

Perhaps no surprise that the abrasive Hartley is back – legendary England captain Martin Johnson was no angel either, but led from the front.

New stars to lead the way in the Six Nations

A host of uncapped players show Jones’ faith in youth – Josh Beaumont, Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Paul Hill, Sam Hill and Maro Itoje. The Magnificent Seven will add pace, passion and desire. They will want to make an impression. Have they been blooded too early? Jones doesn’t think so.

Versatility is to the fore – Saracens 21 year old Itoje covers lock and blindside flanker while Sale’s Beaumont, son of RFU chairman Bill Beaumont, can switch between lock and No 8.

Itoje, a former Harrow School pupil, was captain of the England Under 20 side who won the junior World Cup in 2014. He believes he is ready.

He said: “Given the opportunity, I think I would do well. I am confident in my ability. If I am put in that situation I think I will give a good account of myself.”

Mark McCall, Saracens’ director of rugby, noted: “He has brought real consistency to his performances. He makes things happen on and off the ball. His lineout intellect and knowledge is growing, but he’s a young player and people have to realise that there’s more to come.”

Daly has been talked about a lot and come through the England age groups. He is quick, defensively solid, with game awareness.

Clifford too has long been tipped for greatness, can play across the back row but is the great hope for the open side No 7 slot where England were so shockingly exposed by Wales and Australia.

Gloucester’s Matt Kvesic is also an open side – clearly Jones is well aware of the need to sort the position out. Which leaves Robshaw on the blind … if that is he isn’t left warming the bench.

In all, 13 players from the disgraced World Cup squad are absent from the 33 with Henry Slade, Kieran Brookes and Jonny May injured and Sam Burgess having converted back to rugby league.

Others dropped are Rob Webber, David Wilson and Richard Wigglesworth.

We are seeing the end of an era and every England supporter hopes a bright new and exciting world of rugby will follow. It all starts in the 2016 Six Nations.

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Six Nations 2016 – Ford and Farrell to reunite?

After Eddie Jones announced his 33 man squad for the 2016 Six Nations on Wednesday there was much speculation on who will form the all-important 10-12 axis, a real problem area for England in recent years.

One of the real possibilities could see George Ford and Owen Farrell reunite a partnership that was extremely effective for England in age-group rugby, particularly the under-20’s side and has been used in Test rugby before.

With Henry Slade injured and Manu Tuilagi only recently back from a long absence, Jones gave surprise call-ups to young centres Sam Hill and Ollie Devoto. While there is no doubt these two have exciting futures ahead of them, it would be a surprise to see them thrust straight into starting XV for the Six Nations opener against Scotland.

Farrell began his Test career at inside centre at Murrayfield in 2012, that day he played outside Charlie Hodgson, kicking two penalties and a conversion in a 13-6 for England. But the Saracens star has spent the majority of his rugby at fly-half.

But with the lack of experience available in that area, Farrell could move back into the 12 jersey. Jones has always favoured playing a playmaker at inside centre and spoke about Farrell’s ability to play as a second receiver, saying:  “Owen is quite capable of playing as a 10 or a 12.”

While Ford’s form for Bath hasn’t been as strong as last season, his attacking threat and distribution skills transformed England’s fortunes in last season’s Six Nations.

Centres vie for Six Nations spots

With Farrell pencilled in to the number 12 jersey, Elliot Daly and Jonathan Joseph will compete for the outside centre berth. Joseph was the top try scorer in the 2015 Six Nations and was England’s star man.

He struggled with injury issues during the World Cup and hasn’t been at his electric best in an inconsistent Bath side. In contrast Daly has been in sparkling form for Wasps and his call-up was fully justified.

It will be interesting to see which way Jones go with the outside centre spot. Will it be the proven form and class of Joseph or the explosive inexperience of Daly? Either way we are going to see a very different England in attack with two real distributors at 10 and 12.

Please click here if you are interested our Twickenham Six Nations hospitality packages.

Image Credit – Martin Dobey (Flickr)


Six Nations 2016 – Mindsets have to change for England

England Rugby head coach Eddie Jones has stated that if side want to be successful they have to change their mindset ahead of the 2016 Six Nations Championship.

On Wednesday afternoon Jones selected his first England squad which included seven uncapped players. While experienced players such as Tom Wood, Brad Barritt, Tom Youngs and Ben Morgan were all cut from the 33-man squad.

Since winning the Grand Slam in 2003 under Sir Clive Woodward, England have registered just one Six Nations title when Martin Johnson’s side lifted the title in 2011. For a country like England with the player pool and talent to select from this isn’t really good enough.

Jones has said that the mindset of his players will have to change drastically if they wish to be successful in the 2016 Six Nations and beyond, saying in his press conference: “If we do the same as we have done since 2003 then we will get the same results.

“To be the dominant team in the world you’ve got to be better than good and hard-working. It’s going to take more than they have ever done in their lives.”

Before adding “In this squad of 33 there are four or five players who, if they change their attitude, can become world-class players.”

It is refreshing to hear a coach setting his stall out early like Jones has; while the omission of some of the key lieutenants of the Stuart Lancaster regime signals the start of a new era.

Youngsters can shine in Six Nations 2016

Jones also believes that some of the new faces in the squad can go onto to become world class performers and it will all start on Saturday 6th February when England travel to Murrayfield to face Scotland.

The likes of Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly have been in sensational form for their Aviva Premiership clubs; now Jones needs them to translate that to the international stage and show all their talent.

While he name checked powerful Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi as man who he could build a team around. Saying he could become a player in the mould of New Zealand legend Ma’a Nonu: “Manu can play both inside and outside centre, but, when he’s fit, he can be a Ma’a Nonu-type player.

“He’s got an exceptional skill-base and exceptional feet, he’s got the ability to carry the ball through the line, he’s got a short passing game, he can develop a kicking game, too.

“He can be one of the guys the team is built around.”

As press conferences go this wasn’t a bad one for Jones, now all eyes turn to the Six Nations 2016.

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Image Credit – Peter Dean (Flickr)

Six Nations 2016 – England announce squad

Eddie Jones has included seven uncapped players in his England squad for the 2016 RBS Six Nations; the Australian’s first game in charge is against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday 6th February.

Jones has made the decision to cut several players from the Stuart Lancaster regime including Tom Wood, Ben Morgan, Richard Wigglesworth, Geoff Parling, Rob Webber and Brad Barritt; signalling the start of a new era for England under their first ever foreign head coach.

Maro Itoje the impressive Saracens star earns his first senior call-up after an outstanding start to the season with the Aviva Premiership leaders and is set to be one of the key men in a new look England pack during the RBS Six Nations.

He is joined by flankers Jack Clifford and Matt Kvesic who will compete for the number seven jersey. Clifford and Kvesic are both seen as real ‘fetchers’ in the back-row and will bring much needed breakdown nous.

Josh Beaumont, son of former England skipper Bill Beaumont, also earns his first call-up after a series of powerful displays for the Sale Sharks. Injuries at tighthead prop have seen Northampton youngster Paul Hill get his chance.

Former captain Chris Robshaw retains his place in the squad but will only be considered at blindside flanker, which is seen as his more natural role. His leadership and experience is seen as an important asset for the Six Nations campaign, with so many inexperienced players in the squad.

Exciting backs selected for Six Nations

In the backs there is no place for Danny Cipriani who once again misses out despite earning plaudits for his performances this season. Jones has selected just two recognised fly-halves with Owen Farrell and George Ford retaining their places.

Exciting young centres Elliot Daly, Sam Hill and Ollie Devoto have also been selected. Daly has been one of the Premiership’s best centres for the last 12 months and his call-up is fully deserved. His pace, handling and kicking ability will be a potent weapon for Jones.

Devoto was a surprise inclusion but is an exciting addition. The coaching team will be keen for a playmaker at 12 and Devoto has all the attributes to be a top class centre despite his lack of experience.

While Exeter centre Hill is often overshadowed by his teammate Henry Slade, he brings power and is an underrated distributor. All three of these players could make a real impact in the Six Nations.

Former Merits guest speaker Chris Ashton and Harlequins flyer Marland Yarde have earned recalls after impressive club displays. Ashton is arguably the most natural try-scorer in the country and will know be itching to prove his critics wrong. Yarde is powerful and balanced runner and brings a different dimension to the game than his fellow wingers.

This is certainly an exciting time for fans who will see this new look team in action at Twickenham for the first time when England face Ireland (Saturday 27th February). That is followed by a clash with arch-rivals Wales (Saturday 12th March).

These two huge matches could decide the destination of RBS Six Nations title.

Please click here if you are interested in our Twickenham Six Nations hospitality packages.

Six Nations – Jones set to name England squad

England head coach Eddie Jones will name his first England Rugby squad for the 2016 RBS Six Nations tomorrow; as fans up-and-down the country wait with bated to see who the Australian will select at the start of England’s new era.

The Australian took the role on in December after the RFU parted company with former head coach Stuart Lancaster after the disastrous 2015 World Cup campaign.

Many expect Jones to bring a high-tempo approach to England, much like he did with Japan, who shocked the world beating South Africa in the World Cup. Jones has already outlined that he wants players to express themselves on the pitch and use their full range of skills.

Jones has stated that he will make England “the most dominant team in the world”. A bold statement.

But who will make the cut for the Six Nations?

Jones and his coaching staff (Steve Borthwick, Paul Gustard and Ian Peel) have already suffered several major casualties before even working with the players.

Henry Slade the great hope of the English midfield broke his leg and won’t return to rugby for another few months. His Exeter teammate Dave Ewers was tearing up trees in the domestic game for 18 months before suffering a knee injury.

Kieran Brookes, the young Northampton tighthead was ruled out of the Six Nations, leaving England desperately short of players in form at one of the most crucial positions on the pitch.

Powerful lock duo Ed Slater and Dave Atwood, who were thought to be in line to make the squad and add grunt to the engine room were both ruled out. While this weekend saw injuries to Joe Launchbury, George Kruis and Jack Nowell but it is thought they will recover in time.

At openside flanker Jones has a plethora of talent to select from but none have truly experienced international rugby. Who will be the fetcher during the RBS Six Nations 2016? Gloucester’s Matt Kvesic and Harlequins Jack Clifford look to be leading the way, both are hugely promising.

Maro Itoje continues to impress with every performance and he has to be in the match day squad against Scotland. But will he be selected at second-row or flanker? The engine room seems the long-term aim but he has been equally destructive in the back-row.

Elliot Daly may have edged ahead of Jonathan Joseph at outside centre but it is very close. But who will wear the 12 shirt? Slade was a shoe in until his injury. Kyle Eastmond is out of form, Brad Barritt’s time has surely gone. Could Owen Farrell move across from the number 10 jersey?

At fly-half Danny Cipriani is in red-hot form and is the most talented player in the country. Will Jones trust him to steer the ship? George Ford is slowly returning to his best, Farrell continues to be Mr. Consistent.

These are fascinating questions which Jones will answer tomorrow.

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