After reaching the Rugby World Cup final and eliminating holders New Zealand en route, you couldn’t have any team other than England as 2020 Six Nations betting favourites really.
Only South Africa stopped Eddie Jones from guiding the Red Rose to a second global crown in Japan this autumn.
Yet the England head coach is afraid club interests may now be put ahead of the national team in the short-term.
Saracens were docked 35 points and fined £5,360,000 for breaching Premiership salary cap rules. It has turned their domestic season upside down as it puts them at the bottom of the table.
Jones, a former director of rugby for Sarries, had nine players from the club in his World Cup squad. Six of those were in the starting XV for the Red Rose’s final defeat by the Springboks.
“There might be some Saracens players who feel like they’ve got to play for their club instead of their country, to make sure they don’t go down,” Jones told the BBC.
“It could have a significant impact [on England’s Six Nations Championship]. It’s something we need to weigh up and look at very carefully.”
The issues this could potentially cause effect both the forward pack and Red Rose backs. Jamie George and Mako Vunipola are front row regulars, while the latter’s brother Billy is first-choice at number eight.
Jones also draws on half of his options at lock from Sarries through Maro Itoje and George Kruis. England captain Owen Farrell and fullback Elliot Daly, meanwhile, are two of the top three kickers on the national roster.
Take that septet out – the worst case scenario – and the Red Rose aren’t value as odds-on favourites in the 2020 Six Nations betting. How likely is it that eventuality plays out, though?
No immediate impact on 2020 Six Nations betting
Not very in truth. That explains why bookmakers haven’t reacted at all in the wake of Jones voicing his concerns.
Another factor in the market is continuity versus change. England’s main rivals, Ireland and Wales, are both starting the new Rugby World Cup cycle off under new management.
Andy Farrell and Wayne Pivac have some big boots to fill as respective successors to Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland.
The Irish need a new captain following the retirement of hooker Rory Best. Pivac, meanwhile, inherits pesky injury problems in a number of areas of the Welsh roster.
It leaves the new head coaches with work to do and plenty to prove. Jones will be wary of Six Nations holders Wales and Ireland, however, as changes can bring about improvement.
The Saracens situation requires compromise. How open is Jones to that? He must be to some extent having raised the issue and the way he’s spoken about it.
By the same token, Jones isn’t beholden to his old employers at Sarries. They may be calling in favours from him this winter, but he works for the RFU.
For all England had a memorable World Cup, they didn’t win it. Jones, who embarks upon his fifth year in the job, hasn’t steered the Red Rose to a championship in three years come the Six Nations.
That national interest remains paramount in rugby, especially at a time when England’s football team is doing so well and following a year when their cricket side lifted the World Cup in such thrilling fashion.
Jones needs the kicking, leadership and playmaking ability of Farrell and the Sarries forward pack if he is to keep his end of the sporting bargain up. How club and country arrive at compromise will shape the 2020 Six Nations betting market.