England before they played in the first international; versus Scotland
in Edinburgh, 1871.
The expansion of rugby in the first half of the 19th century was driven by ex-pupils from many of England's public schools, especially Rugby, who, upon finishing school, took the game with them to universities, to London, and to the counties. England's first international match was against Scotland on Monday 27 March 1871; not only was this England's first match, but it is also noted as being the first-ever rugby union international. Scotland won the match by one goal and a try to England's one unconverted try, in front of a crowd of 4,000 people at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh. A subsequent international took place at the Oval in London on 5 February 1872, when England defeated Scotland by a goal, a drop goal and two tries to Scotland's one drop goal. The early matches did not use a structured points system; this would not be introduced until after 1890 when a suitable format for the scoring system had been devised. Up until 1875, international rugby matches were decided by the number of goals scored (conversions and dropped goals), but from 1876 the number of tries scored could be used to decide a match if the teams were level on goals.
In 1875, England played their first game against Ireland at the Oval, winning by one goal, one drop goal and one try to nil; this was Ireland's first-ever test match. England defeated Scotland in 1880 to become the first winners of the Calcutta Cup. Their first match against Wales was played on 19 February 1881 at Richardson's Field in Blackheath, where England recorded their largest victory, winning by seven goals, six tries, and one drop goal to nil, and scoring 13 tries in the process. The subsequent meeting the following year at St Helens in Swansea was a closer contest, with England defeating Wales by two goals and four tries to nil. Two years later, England emerged as the inaugural winners at the first Home Nations championship. In 1889, they played their first match against a non-home nations team when they defeated the New Zealand Natives at Rectory Field in Blackheath by one goal and four tries to nil. England shared the Home Nations trophy with Scotland in 1890.
England first played New Zealand (known as the All Blacks) in 1905 at Crystal Palace in London. New Zealand scored five tries, worth three points at the time, to win 15–0. England played France for the first time in March 1906 in Paris, winning 35–8, and later that year they first faced South Africa (known as the Springboks), again at Crystal Palace. James Peters was withdrawn from the England squad when the South Africans refused to play against a black player; the match was drawn 3–3. England first played Australia (known as the Wallabies) in January 1909 at Blackheath's Rectory Field, where they were defeated 3–9.
The year 1909 saw the opening of Twickenham Stadium as the RFU's new home, heralding a golden era for English rugby union. England's first international at Twickenham in 1910 brought them victory over Wales on their way to winning the International Championship (known from then as the Five Nations) for the first time since 1892. Although England did not retain the Five Nations title in 1911, they did share it (with Ireland) in 1912. England then achieved their first Five Nations Grand Slam in 1913, another in 1914, and a third in 1921 after the First World War. A further two consecutive Grand Slams followed for the England team in 1924 and 1925, this despite having started 1925 with an 11–17 loss to the All Black Invincibles in front of 60,000 fans at Twickenham.
After winning another Grand Slam in 1928, England played the Springboks in front of 70,000 spectators at Twickenham in 1931. Following the ejection of France due to professionalism in 1930, which thus reverted The Five Nations back to the Home Nations tournament, England went on to win the 1934 and 1937 Home Nations with a Triple Crown, and in 1935 achieved their first victory over the All Blacks.
When the Five Nations resumed with the re-admission of France in 1947 after the Second World War, England shared the championship with Wales. The early Five Nations competitions of the 1950s were unsuccessful for England, winning one match in the 1950 and 1951 championships. England won the 1953 Five Nations, and followed this up with a Grand Slam in 1957, and win in 1958. England broke France's four-championship streak by winning the 1963 Championship. After this victory, England played three Tests in the Southern Hemisphere and lost all three: 21–11 and 9–6 against the All Blacks, and 18–9 against Australia. England did not win a single match in 1966, and managed only a draw with Ireland. They did not win another Championship that decade; a fact that prompted amateur historian F. W. P. Syms to declare this period 'the sorriest in English Rugby Union History'.
was appointed as England's first-ever coach in 1969. According to former Northampton player Bob Taylor, "Don was chosen because he was the most forward-thinking coach in England". His first match in charge was an 11–8 victory over South Africa at Twickenham in 1969. Of the eleven games England played with White in charge they won three, and drew one and lost seven. He resigned as England coach in 1971.
England had wins against Southern Hemisphere teams in the 1970s; with victories over South Africa in 1972, New Zealand in 1973 and Australia in 1973 and 1976. The 1972 Five Nations Championship was not completed due to the Troubles in Northern Ireland when Scotland and Wales refused to play their Five Nations away fixtures in Ireland. England played in Dublin in 1973 and were given a standing ovation lasting five minutes. After losing 18–9 at Lansdowne Road, the England captain, John Pullin famously stated, "We might not be very good but at least we turned up."
England started the following decade with a Grand Slam victory in the 1980 Five Nations – their first for 23 years. However in the 1983 Five Nations Championship, England failed to win a game and picked up the wooden spoon. In the first Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, England were grouped in pool A alongside Australia, Japan and the United States. England lost their first game 19–6 against Australia. They went on to defeat Japan and the United States, and met Wales in their quarter-final, losing the match 16–3.
In 1989, England won matches against Romania and Fiji, followed by victories in their first three Five Nations games of 1990. They lost to Scotland in their last game however, giving Scotland a Grand Slam. England recovered in the following year by winning their first Grand Slam since 1980. England hosted the 1991 World Cup and were in pool A, along with the All Blacks, Italy and the United States. Although they lost to the All Blacks in pool play, they qualified for a quarter-final going on to defeat France 19–10. England then defeated Scotland 9–6 to secure a place in the final against Australia which they lost 12–6.
The next year, England completed another Grand Slam and did not lose that year, including a victory over the Springboks. In the lead up to the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, England completed another Grand Slam – their third in five years. In the World Cup, England defeated Argentina, Italy and Samoa in pool play and then defeated Australia 25–22 in their quarter-final. England's semi-final was dominated by the All Blacks and featured four tries, now worth five points each, by Jonah Lomu; England lost 45–29. They then lost the third/fourth place play-off match against France.
England won their 20th Triple Crown title in 1997, but came second in the championship after a narrow 20–23 defeat against France at Twickenham. Sir Clive Woodward replaced Jack Rowell as the England head coach later that year. On 6 December 1997, England drew 26–26 with New Zealand at Twickenham, after being heavily defeated by South Africa at the same venue the week before and by New Zealand in Manchester two weeks previously. In 1998, England toured Australia, New Zealand and South Africa; many of the players made themselves unavailable for what was to become nicknamed the "tour from hell" during which England suffered a punishing 76–0 defeat by the Wallabies. In the last-ever Five Nations match on 11 April 1999, with England poised to win the championship, Welsh centre Scott Gibbs sliced through six English tackles to score a try in the last minute, and the ensuing conversion by Neil Jenkins handed the final Five Nations title to Scotland.
England commenced the new millennium by winning the inaugural Six Nations title, although they lost their last match to Scotland. They successfully defended their Six Nations title the following year, but missed out on the Grand Slam by losing 14–20 to Ireland in a postponed match at Lansdowne Road. Although France won the 2002 Six Nations Championship, England defeated the other Home Nations to win the Triple Crown. In 2002, England beat Argentina 26–18 in Buenos Aires, and in the end-of-year tests they defeated New Zealand 31–28, Australia 32–31, and South Africa 53–3 at Twickenham. At the 2003 Six Nations Championship, England won the Grand Slam for the first time since 1995, followed by wins over Australia and the All Blacks on their June summer tour.
Going into the 2003 World Cup as one of the tournament favourites, England reached the final on 22 November 2003 against host Australia. The game went into extra time with the score tied at 14–14; after one penalty apiece and with just seconds to spare, a match-winning drop goal by star flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson brought the final score to 20–17, making England rugby world champions for the first time. Not only was this England's first Rugby World Cup victory, but it was the nation's first World Cup since winning the FIFA (football) World Cup in 1966. On 8 December, the England team greeted 750,000 supporters on a victory parade through London before meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
The England national squad training for the 2007 Rugby World Cup at the University of Bath
England finished third in the 2004 Six Nations Championship after losing their matches to both France and Ireland. Clive Woodward resigned as head coach on 2 September and Andy Robinson was appointed to replace him. Robinson's first Six Nations campaign in 2005 resulted in fourth place for England, and although they defeated Australia 26–16 at Twickenham in the end-of-year tests, this was followed by a 19–23 loss to the All Blacks.
Following their loss to South Africa in the 2006 end of year Tests, England had lost eight of their last nine Tests – their worst ever losing streak. Coach Andy Robinson resigned after this run, and attack coach Brian Ashton was appointed head coach in December 2006. England started the 2007 Six Nations Championship with a Calcutta Cup victory over Scotland. The championship also included a historic match at Croke Park against Ireland which England lost 43–13, their heaviest ever defeat to Ireland.
In the 2007 World Cup England played in Pool A with Samoa, Tonga, South Africa and the United States. They qualified for the quarter finals after losing embarrassingly to South Africa 36–0 where they defeated Australia 12–10, and then faced hosts France in their semi-final. England won 14–9 to qualify for the final against South Africa, which they lost 15–6. England followed up the World Cup with two consecutive 2nd place finishes in the Six Nations, behind Wales and Ireland respectively. The 2009 Six Nations also saw former England Captain Martin Johnson take up the job of head coach. However, Johnson could not replicate his on-field success to management, and resigned in November 2011 following a miserable 2011 Rugby World Cup which ended in quarter-final defeat by France and featured a series of on and off-field controversies.
On 29 March 2012, Stuart Lancaster, the former Elite Rugby Director at Leeds Carnegie was appointed England head coach by the . Previously Lancaster was appointed as the head coach on a short term basis assisted by existing forwards coach Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.
Lancaster was considered a success in his first campaign as England coach - during the 2012 Six Nations Championship, defending Champions England finished in second place after losing 19–12 to Wales at Twickenham Stadium, but successfully defended the Calcutta Cup beating Scotland 13–6 at Murrayfield. England finished the year on a high, after outplaying World Cup holders New Zealand in November, in which England dominated to win 38–21. The All Blacks had been unbeaten in 20 matches but were completely outplayed by England.
During the 2013 Six Nations Championship again England finished in second place behind Wales after losing the opportunity of being Grand Slam winners for the first time since 2003, by losing to Wales in Cardiff 30–3. It was also the first time every team managed to win at least 3 competition points (the equivalent of a win and a draw or three draws) since 1974. However, England did again defeat Scotland for the Calcutta Cup 38–18 at Twickenham.
During the 2013 summer tour to South America in which Lancaster took an experimental side, England beat a South American select XV before a 2–0 series victory over Argentina, a first away series win against The Pumas for 32 years. England hosted the 2015 Rugby World Cup but were eliminated in the pool stage, Arguably not the first hosts in a Rugby World Cup to have failed to qualify for the knockout stages, as Wales were similarly eliminated at the Pool stage from a British held World Cup in 1991.
However, despite the 2015 World Cup setback following the appointment of new head coach Eddie Jones, England won the Grand Slam in the 2016 Six Nations Championship, went the whole of 2016 unbeaten, including winning a series whitewash over Australia in Sydney, and equalled the world record of 18 consecutive test wins with an impressive 61–21 victory over Scotland securing the Six Nations Championship of the 2017 edition.
2018 began well for England, seeing off a spirited challenge from Italy 46-15, and winning a tight contest against Wales 12-6 in the first two rounds of the Six Nations. However, it wasn't until June before England recorded another win, as the team lost their remaining games against Scotland (13-25), France (16-22) and eventual Grand Slam winners Ireland (15-24) at home at Twickenham. A non-test loss against the Barbarians (45-63) followed.
On their Summer tour of South Africa, England lost the first two matches 39-42 and 12-23, after leading both early in the first half, before winning the third test 25-10 against a mostly second-string Springbok side. That autumn, after adding former All Blacks and USA Eagles coach John Mitchell to the coaching setup, England won the return match against South Africa by a single point at 12-11, and lost an equally close contest with New Zealand by 15-16, both in controversial circumstances. England would round out the year with wins over Japan (35-15) and Australia (37-18). The win over Australia continued an unbroken run of victories over the Wallabies under former Australia coach Eddie Jones.