By Ben Smith of

The billing of England vs All Blacks looked to be the ultimate showdown of the two superpowers of North and South. The two nations went on mammoth win streaks throughout 2016 and it became everyone's wish to see them play in 2017.

That didn't happen and unfortunately, it will be a rued opportunity.

A lot can happen in 12 months. The cracks are starting to appear in Eddie Jones' side and we are still nine months away from the blockbuster test. Who knows what England will look like by the end of the year.


Scotland proved that skill will triumph over England's brawn. Their frantic, enterprising play wore over the big Englishmen and fired enough shots to put England in a position where they cannot win from – behind on the scoreboard early.

With a team full of beef and Farrell's right boot, England are not built to chase points. Their lifeless form of predictable rugby is all about bashing opponents with brute force, kicking for territory and playing penalties. Eddie Jones brings the flair – distracting everyone from the reality of the dour play.

Jump on them early and they are done, they only know how to play one way.

The Irish could prove the All Blacks' toughest test this year. Photo / Getty
The Irish could prove the All Blacks' toughest test this year. Photo / Getty

If Ireland beat England at Twickenham on March 18 for the second consecutive year, the England vs New Zealand talk has to stop – it's Ireland vs New Zealand that needs to be hyped.

After all, Ireland have proved recently they can actually beat New Zealand – shocking the world champions in Chicago before the Kiwis squared the ledger in Dublin in late 2016. If Ireland beat England again and claim the Six Nations crown, forget about the Twickenham test and at the same time put a lid on the talk of England's greatness.

Eddie Jones' success with each new team seems to last for the first two years. That expiry date is approaching, and in hindsight, this period for English rugby could well be remembered for not challenging the world's best side when they could have. If the wheels fall off before the November test they will have achieved nothing other than one Six Nations championship.

With a June test series in South Africa to get through, England could well and truly be out of the picture by November as the number one test side. A South African resurgence under new coach Rasi Erasmus is entirely possible, as we have seen remarkable turnarounds in a short period when a new coach comes in (i.e. Jones with England in '16).

If South Africa wins that series 2-1 or even 3-0, November's test won't be a showing between the world's two best teams. Only one will be showing up, and it won't be England.