One can scarcely believe that it is almost a full 12 months since England, who plunged the depths of despair in the autumn of 2015 and parted company with Stuart Lancaster after becoming the first hosts in Rugby World Cup history to be eliminated at the competition's pool stage, began their remarkably swift recovery under Eddie Jones with a gritty Calcutta Cup victory over auld enemy Scotland at Murrayfield.

While that certainly was not the prettiest of wins to commence a new era of English rugby, it nevertheless set the tone for a truly tremendous year in which England followed their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003 by completing a historic series whitewash on Australian soil. Not merely content with those two stellar achievements, Jones' dominant side ended a decade-long Springbok hoodoo and saw off both Argentina and Fiji before beating the Wallabies again at Twickenham to equal their record of 14 successive Test triumphs originally set by Sir Clive Woodward's World Cup winning heroes.

2016 will be a mightily tough act to follow for England, who begin their latest Six Nations campaign at home to France on 4 February before facing Wales (A), Italy (H), Scotland (H) and finishing up in Dublin. IBTimes UK looks at who is likely to make the cut before Jones officially names his squad on Friday (20 January)....

Similarly to the autumn, England's preparations have once again been disrupted by an unrelenting injury crisis. Former captain turned reliable blindside Chris Robshaw will miss the entire competition after undergoing shoulder surgery, while Harlequins teammate Joe Marler is now said to be 50/50 to make the France game after a lower leg fracture initially expected to take four to five weeks to heal.

Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones led England to a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2016

That latter blow is exacerbated by the absence of fellow loosehead prop Mako Vunipola, who was ruled out for between four to 12 weeks after injuring his knee just before Christmas. Younger brother and star number eight Billy could return at some stage after tearing knee cartilage in that chippy 24-17 victory over Argentina in November, but he will certainly not make the first few matches. Meanwhile, Manu Tuilagi's hopes of re-establishing his credentials at international level have sadly been scuppered by an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Positive injury updates come with the news that Saracens lock George Kruis should be ready for Six Nations duty after recovering from a fractured cheekbone. James Haskell is also expected to be available after recently suffering concussion less than a minute into his comeback from summer toe surgery.

Joe Launchbury's return after a calf complaint is timely with the versatile Maro Itoje possibly set to switch from second row to six to cover for the loss of Robshaw, while fierce tackler Courtney Lawes has been in good form for Northampton. Charlie Ewels offers more second-row depth in addition to the extremely versatile Mike Williams.

Chris Robshaw
Chris Robshaw will be sidelined for the entire Six Nations due to a shoulder problem

Nathan Hughes should continue to deputise for Vunipola and Wood, recalled in November despite previously being labelled as "distinctly average" by the no-nonsense Australian, will be confident of retaining his place after Jones recently declared him "oustandingly consistent" and the player of the Aviva Premiership season so far. Teimana Harrison, Jack Clifford and Josh Beaumont also figure in the back-row mix, as might Sam Jones after that fractured fibula.

Wasps' Matt Mullan is likely to fill any loosehead void having backed-up Vunipola during Marler's absence in Australia, although Leicester's Ellis Genge, initially left out of Jones' most recent 45-man EPS squad, and Nathan Catt of Bath provide alternative options. Kyle Sinckler is the tighthead back-up for Dan Cole.

Jack Nowell
Jack Nowell has been in fine fettle for Exeter Chiefs

Captain and first-choice hooker Dylan Hartley will be subjected to an intense game-like training session to determine his fitness after a six-week ban for striking. Any issues would lead to a promotion for Jamie George, with Tommy Taylor also waiting in the wings.

"It's like having a racehorse that does trials – if they run fast in the trials there's a good chance they're going to run fast in the race," Jones said.

Injury concerns have thankfully been far less prevalent in the back division, where the established sextet of Ben Youngs, George Ford, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Joseph, Mike Brown and Jonny May, fitness permitting, should all be automatic starters. Jack Nowell, one of several England players injured during a controversial Brighton training camp in October, has impressed massively since returning for Exeter Chiefs and should replace Marland Yarde. Anthony Watson is also back and eager to impress, highlighting the embarrassment of riches currently available to Jones.

Elliot Daly is another who will attempt to win back his starting berth after that early red card against the Pumas. Alex Lozowski and Ben Te'o were both invited to the latest training camp, as was Semesa Rokoduguni as a late replacement for Tuilagi. His treatment by England remains a divisive subject.

Predicted England starting XV for Six Nations opener against France on 4 February

15. Mike Brown, 14. Jonny May, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Owen Farrell, 11. Jack Nowell, 10. George Ford, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Joe Marler/Matt Mullan, 2. Dylan Hartley (c), 3. Dan Cole, 4. Joe Launchbury, 5. George Kruis, 6. Maro Itoje, 7. Tom Wood, 8. Nathan Hughes