The England Rugby Team
England is the home to Rugby – the school and the sport. This is where the game was born, on the grounds of Rugby School in Warwickshire, England. It is reputed that William Webb Ellis picked up the ball during a football match and so the game was born. So it stands to reason that England has the oldest tradition of rugby.
The spread of the sport was due to scholars of Rugby School traveling to other counties and taking with them, the sport. Of course in the early years, the rules were not formatted so the game was a collection of players playing within a loose structure compared to what we have today.
England played the first internationally recognized test match against Scotland in 1871 and lost that match. Even though a formal system of scoring wasn’t adopted until later, they went down to a series of goal kicks and tries. The later part of the 19th century saw England play against the home nations with mixed results. With the dawn of the 20th Century, rugby had spread around the commonwealth and international tours were taking place.
England hosted the 1905 All Blacks and lost that match 15-0, of course this was with an archaic scoring system. They hosted the Springboks in the same year and drew 3-3. They later lost to the the Australians 9-3. In 1909 the grounds known as Twickenham were opened to become the home of England Rugby. This ushered in a golden age of the sport for England as they put together some impressive victories to claim the Five Nations tournament. They claimed their first grand slam victories in 1913 & 1914 as well as in 1921 after the First World War.
Even though England had had success in the past and played in the a number of tours and tournaments they only appointed their first recognized coach in 1969, Don White. His first match in charge was a victory over the Springboks but his overall record wasn’t good and he resigned two years later.
In the 1970s England put up strong victories against South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. From this time, England were regarded as a powerhouse of the rugby world with no team taking them for granted.
They competed in the first Rugby World Cup in 1987 losing out to Wales in the quarter finals. They have since competed in all Rugby World Cup tournaments. In 1997, Sir Clive Woodward was appointed head coach. His first year in charge saw some of the worst tour defeats losing to Australia 76-0. The new millennium saw England reinvent themselves and take out the inaugural Six Nations tournament. They continued this form and by the time the 2003 Rugby World Cup came around, England were regarded as one of the favourites. They defeated Australia in the final and claimed their maiden World Cup championship.
They were ranked as number one during this time, but have since fallen back in the rankings and sit 4th in the world rankings. They have had some great successes in the past 10 years and just lost out to Ireland this year to finish second in the Six Nations tournament.
England play in their traditional white strip that has been their trademark since the team’s inception and is said to be borrowed from the Rugby School rugby strip. There have been some variations on the England shirt, but the white with red detail has been at the forefront. The emblem of the rose has been on the shirt since the beginning and is different from the three lions found on the other national jerseys. The rose has been the same since the 1920s until a Nike jersey modernized it slightly. England still play with the rose on their chest. Their away strip has changed over the years but as of this year, they play in an all red jersey with dark shorts.
Some of the best players on the game have worn the red rose, which include hall of famers, Bill Beaumont, Martin Johnson, Jason Leonard, Wavell Wakefield. Other players that have not been inducted include Rory Underwood, Rob Andrew, Jeremy Guscott, Will Carling and Richard Hill. These players were great in their time but they couldn’t hold a candle to England’s golden boy and greatest points scorer. Jonny Wilkinson lead England to the World Cup victory and a number of great victories. He redefined what a flyhalf does with an educated boot and his place kicking was a trademark feature of his game. Many players remember his stance as he held out his hands in front of him, clasped together, before nailing his kicks. He played 91 times for England and earned 6 British and Irish Lions’ caps. He is regarded by many to be one of the greatest flyhalves alongside Dan Carter and Hugo Porta. His later years of international rugby saw him hampered by injuries and he eventually retired from international duties in 2011. He had taken up contract with French club Toulon in 2009 and remained with the club until his full retirement in 2014. In his career he won the Rugby World Cup and the European Club Championship cup. Since his retirement, he has been a part time coach with Toulon working on specific skills with the players.
England has a brute style of rugby with big forwards making space for the backline. In the last decade, they have relied on tactical kicking but are adjusting their game to release some talented centres at the moment. They have a powerful front row that puts a lot of pressure on the opposing scrums and they use this weapon to give their backs some go-forward ball.
Since this year the Rugby World Cup will be hosted in England, some are suggesting that England could be the dark horse of the tournament. Don’t be surprised to see them at the business end of the tournament as they have been there before and won it.