Only in exceptional circumstances will England fail to be crowned Six Nations champions for a third successive year, according to former skipper and World Cup winner Lewis Moody.
Injuries have blighted England’s build up to the championship, which has led to some observers installing Ireland as favourites to usurp their northern hemisphere rivals and seal a first title since 2015.
Much of Ireland’s backing stems from their provinces enjoying productive campaigns in European club competition this season, while England are represented by only Saracens in the last eight of the Champions Cup.
Moody, however, is unconvinced and is not prepared to entertain any other outcome than England becoming the first nation to win a hat-trick of outright championships, with a second Grand Slam in three years eminently possible.
“I have a very clear set of favourites and that’s definitely England. It would take a meteoric and incredible performance to dislodge them from the championship this year,” Moody told City A.M.
“Club-wise they may not have done as well as some of the other nations but as a group of individuals and in terms of strength in depth they’re definitely leading the way. Not since 2002 or 2003 have England had such strength in depth.
“Even with the injuries, I just think England will be too dominant. Ireland will be their challenge for top spot but I just cannot see any of the other nations beating England – a Grand Slam is very much a possibility.”
England will enter the tournament and their opening match against Italy in Rome on Sunday having recorded 22 victories from the 23 Tests since the appointment of Eddie Jones as head coach.
With England’s performances increasingly scrutinised through the prism of next year’s World Cup, Moody believes success over the next seven weeks will increase the All Blacks-like invincibility that Jones and his players are cultivating.
“If these guys win another title and make it three in a row then that builds their confidence and belief that every time they take the field they are going to win,” added Land Rover ambassador Moody.
“It’s about getting to the position where no matter the situation or scoreline, however long is left to go in the game, they never believe for one second that they will lose and not come away with a victory.
“It stems from previous matches, having been there and done it, going through pressure moments, proving in training day in, day out, that every man is worthy of their position and building an unbreakable trust.
“That is what New Zealand have been so good at over the years and what England are getting to.”
Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover has a heritage in rugby at all levels; from grassroots to elite, supporting the game for two decades. @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal