Last Saturday saw Eddie Jones’ England side storm past Scotland to equal New Zealand’s impressive eighteen game unbeaten run. In doing so, they secured back-to-back Six Nations Championships for the first time since they managed the feat under Sir Clive Woodward way back in 2001. Now, only Ireland stand in the way of Dylan Hartley’s men and a record nineteen games without loss.
To get this record-breaking number, they need visit Dublin and escape unscathed. Victory would mean back-to-back Grand Slams too. And that’s not something the English have done since 1991/92 under the captaincy of a certain Will Carling. Will they do it? The form guide and bookmakers will tell you so. The nation of Ireland might well disagree. But’s let’s be clear – if England do win, it’ll be one heck of an achievement.
Let’s take a quick look at how the Red & Whites got to where they are. And after that, we’ll look back at some of the unbeaten streaks they’ll have outgunned in international test rugby…
England – 19 (?) Matches
So, then. England are eighteen games unbeaten. Seventeen of those games have come under the stewardship of their Australian coach, the ex-Japan boss Eddie Jones. It begun back in October 2015 with a thumping of Los Teros in Stuart Lancaster’s last game. Jones’ tenure – obviously – started with a win too. Billy Vunipola shone as Scotland were beaten 15-9 in the Six Nations. All other teams were defeated and the Grand Slam was captured. Before their latest run of victories in this year’s Grand Slam, they also swept aside Fiji, Argentina and South Africa. Oh, and Australia. Four times. Not bad, eh?
New Zealand – 18 Matches
It ended in November 2016 with defeat to Ireland at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. But before that? A full eighteen games without loss. It had begun some fifteen months previously with a thumping of their close rivals, the Aussies. Along the way, the All Blacks handed out some real tonkings too. So much so that it prompted many rugby pundits and fans to call them ‘The Greatest of All Time’. Stand-out results included a 62-13 defeat of France, a 46-6 spanking of the Welsh and beating South Africa 57-15. It was a record-breaking run. England have since matched it. Will they beat the record, though? We’ll see at the weekend…
South Africa – 17 Matches
August 1997. South African rugby isn’t exactly enjoying itself. Three consecutive defeats in the Tri-Nations leaves them deflated. Then, something odd happens. Seemingly out of nowhere, their final game saw them thrash Australia. They then swept past everyone in their Autumn internationals and June internationals. Then another Tri-Nations campaign saw them rampage through. A last minute James Dalton try beat the All Blacks 24-23 in the final game. They were aiming for win number eighteen a few internationals later when Woodward’s England ruined it all for the Springboks. England won 13-7 and the sixteen months of South African fun came to an end.
New Zealand – 17 Matches
The All Blacks have got form with unbeaten runs. That’s what happens when you’re arguably the greatest ever international rugby side. Back in the mid to late 1960’s, New Zealand went on another stormer, winning seventeen games back to back. Their run started and ended against South Africa, who eventually broke their winning streak with a 17-6 win in Pretoria back in 1970. New Zealand player of the century Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads and his brother Stan helped dominate games. Before this run, Wales’ eleven games unbeaten was the record. So it was quite the achievement at the time.
Honourable Mention: Cyprus – 24 Matches
Now, technically, England won’t actually be beating the international record of games unbeaten. Cyprus technically hold that honour at 24 games. But by playing just in Europe and not really against – how shall we say – the best opposition, no one really credits them. But we will here (sort of). Hey, you can only beat what’s put in front of you, right? The Cypriots only played their first competitive match back in March 2007. They won their first four games, lost to Israel, then won 24 games straight. Why are blokes from Cyprus so good at rugby…? Well, they’re not. But blokes from England who self-fund a series of flights to represent a country they only vaguely have ties to can be. So it’s difficult to credit them formally. Still, top pub quiz trivia for you.
Just one more game to make history for England. One more. Will they do it? Or will their old foes from the Emerald Isles spoil the party…?