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The England national rugby union team represents Englandmarker in rugby union. They compete in the annual Six Nations Championship with France, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and Wales. They have won this championship on 25 occasions, 12 times winning the Grand Slam. England also compete for the Calcutta Cup with Scotland as part of the Six Nations. England are ranked sixth in the world by the International Rugby Board as of 30 November 2009. They won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 and finished runner-up in 1991 and 2007.

The history of the team extends back to 1871 when the English rugby team played their first official Test match, losing to Scotlandmarker by one try. England dominated the early Home Nations Championship (now the Six Nations) which started in 1883. Following the schism of rugby football in 1895, England did not win the Championship again until 1910. England first played against New Zealand in 1905, South Africa in 1906, and Australia in 1909. England was one of the teams invited to take part in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 and went on to appear in the final in the second cup in 1991 only to be defeated by Australia. Following their 2003 Six Nations Grand Slam, England won that year's World Cup — beating Australia 20–17 in extra time. They also contested the final in 2007 but finished as runners up, losing 15–6 to South Africa.England players traditionally wear white shorts, navy socks (although they are now white and red) with white tops, and a white shirt with a red rose embroidered on it, and for the first time in the English rugby team's history, their away shirt is red (up until recently, navy blue has been the traditional colour). Their home ground is Twickenham Stadiummarker where they first played in 1910. The team is administered by the Rugby Football Union (RFU). Four former players have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.


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 Rugbymarker, who, upon finishing school, took the game with them to universities, to Londonmarker, and to the counties. England's first international match was against Scotland on Monday 27 March 1871. Not only was this match England's first, but it also proved to be the first ever rugby union international. Scotland won the match by a goal and a try to a try, in front of a crowd of 4,000 people at Raeburn Placemarker, Edinburghmarker. A subsequent international took place at the Ovalmarker in London on 5 February 1872 which saw England defeat Scotland by a goal, a drop goal and two tries to one drop goal. In those early days there was no points system, it was only after 1890 that a format allowing the introduction of a points system was provided. 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 teams were level on goals.

In 1875, England played their first game against the Irish at the Oval, winning by one goal, one drop goal and one try to nil; the match was Ireland's first ever Test. 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 Blackheathmarker. England recorded their largest victory, defeating the Welsh 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 Swanseamarker was a closer contest; with England winning by two goals and four tries to nil Two years later, the first Home Nations championship was held and England emerged as the inaugural winners. In 1889, England played their first match against a non-home nations team when they defeated the New Zealand Natives by one goal and four tries to nil at Rectory Field in Blackheath. In 1890 England shared the Home Nations trophy with Scotland.

England first played New Zealand (the All Blacks) in 1905. The All Blacks scored five tries, worth three points at this time, to win 15–0. The following year, they played France for the first time, and later that year they first faced South Africa (known as the Springboks); James Peters was withdrawn from the England squad after the South Africans objected to playing against a black player. The match was drawn 3–3. England first played France in 1907, and Australia (known as the Wallabies) in 1909 when they were defeated 3–9.

The year 1909 saw the opening of Twickenhammarker as the RFU's new home, which heralded a golden era for English rugby union. England's first international at Twickenham brought them victory over Wales, and England went on to win the International Championship (then known as the Five Nations) for the first time since the great schism of 1895. Although England did not retain the title in 1911, they did share it in 1912. A Five Nations Grand Slam was then achieved in 1913 and 1914 as well as in 1921 following the First World War. England subsequently won the Grand Slam in 1924 and as well as in 1925. This was despite having started 1925 with a 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.

Don White 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 Twickenhammarker 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 1976. The 1972 Five Nations Championship was not completed due to the Troubles in Northern Irelandmarker 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 Roadmarker, 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.

In 1997, Clive Woodward became England's coach. That year, England drew with New Zealand at Twickenham after being heavily defeated in Manchester the week before. England toured Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in 1998. Many of the England team made themselves unavailable for the tour nicknamed the "tour from hell" where England suffered a record 76–0 defeat to the Wallabies. In 1999 during the last ever Five Nations match, Scott Gibbs sliced through six English tackles to score in the last minute, and the last ever Five Nations title went to Scotland.

commenced the new decade by winning the inaugural Six Nations title. In 2001, Ireland defeated England 20–14 in a postponed match at Lansdowne Road to deny them a Grand Slam. Although the 2002 Six Nations Championship title was won by France, England had the consolation of winning the Triple Crown. In 2002, England defeated Argentina in Buenos Aires, and then the All Blacks, Australia, and South Africa at Twickenham. In 2003, England won the Grand Slam for the first time since 1995, followed by wins over Australia and the All Blacks in June.

Going into the 2003 World Cup, England were one of the tournament favourites. They reached the final on 22 November 2003 against Australia and became World champions after a match-winning drop goal by Jonny Wilkinson in extra time that made the final score 20–17. On 8 December, the English team greeted 750,000 supporters on their victory parade through Londonmarker before meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palacemarker.

In the 2004 Six Nations Championship, England lost to both France and Ireland and finished third. Sir Clive Woodward resigned on 2 September and Andy Robinson was appointed England head coach. Robinson's first Six Nations campaign in 2005 resulted in fourth place for England, and although they then defeated Australia 26–16, the year was completed with a 23–19 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 Parkmarker 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 Martin Johnson take up the job of Head Coach.


View from the North Stand of Twickenham, circa 2003.
Up until 1910, the English rugby team used various stadia in a number of venues around England before settling at Twickenham Stadiummarker. After sell-out matches at Crystal Palacemarker in 1905 and 1906 against New Zealand and South Africa respectively, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) decided to invest in their own ground. In 1906, the RFU arranged for William Williams to find a home ground for English Rugby. The land for the ground was purchased the following year for £5,572 12s and 6d, and construction began the following year.

The first England match was held on 9 October 1910 between England and Wales. England ran out winners, 11–6, beating Wales for the first time since 1898. The stadium was expanded in 1927 and again in 1932. Further upgrades did not happen until the 1990s when new North, East and West stands were built. A new South stand was built in 2005 and 2006 to make the stadium into a complete bowl. The first match to be played at the redeveloped Twickenham was on Sunday 5 November 2006 against the All Blacks. England lost the match 20–41 in front of a record crowd of 82,076.

Although England have played home matches almost exclusively at Twickenham since 1910, they have played at Huddersfield's Galpharm Stadiummarker twice in 1998, at Old Traffordmarker against New Zealand in 1997 and at Wembley Stadiummarker against Canada in 1992. They will also play the first of a two-test series against Argentina at Old Traffordmarker in June 2009.

After reconstruction was completed in 2006, Twickenham is now widely regarded as one of the finest stadiums in the world.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is very commonly sung at England fixtures — especially at Twickenham. The song arrived in the rugby canon through the Welsh male voice choirs who sang many spirituals. It was a popular rugby song at clubs during the 1950s and 1960s and was sung every year at Twickenham during the end-of-season all-day Middlesex Sevens tournament. During the 1970s the Twickenham crowd also sang it during England matches and from that time it has become an England rugby anthem.It became the anthem of the team in 1991 as a result of the plan of the then RFU marketing director Mike Coley for the team to launch a song leading up to that years Rugby World cup.He had wanted to use Jerusalem but it was used in the Rugby League cup final that year so the song was changed at short notice to Swing Low.there were a number of versions recorded including a 'rap' version with Jerry Guscott doing a solo. needless to say that was never released but the version released did reach the top 40 in the UK singles chart during the competition and was then adopted as the England rugby song.


England plays in white shirts with a red stripe, white shorts with a red stripe and red and white socks. The emblem on the shirts is a red rose, rather than the Plantagenet Three Lions displayed on the shirts of the England football and England cricket teams. The strip is manufactured by Nikemarker and O2 is the shirt sponsor. Red is the change strip, although prior to the introduction of the red strip, navy blue was used. Purple was used as the change strip in the 2009 autumn internationals.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) had created the national side's emblem prior to an English team being sent to Edinburghmarker to play a Scottish side. A red rose was chosen to be the side’s emblem. The white kit worn by the national team was taken from the kit used at Rugby Schoolmarker. Alfred Wright, an employee of the Rugby Football Union, is credited with the standardisation and new design of the rose, which up until 1920 had undergone many variations in its depiction. The Wright design is thought to have been used without minor alteration until the late 1990s. It was not until 1997 that the rose was modernised when Nike became the official strip supplier.

In 2003 England first used a skin-tight strip. This was intended to make it more difficult for the opposition to grasp the shirt when tackling. The home and away strips for 2007 were unveiled on 15 May that year. The materials used are superior, offering improved performance to the 2003 kit. However, a sweeping red mark on the base-white front which forms St George's Cross on the top left, and a changed away-strip (dark blue to red), have received criticism because it is felt that emphasis has been placed on St George's Cross at the expense of the traditional red rose. The new strip was introduced in England's home game against Wales on 4 August, while the alternative strip was first used against France on 18 August.

The current england home strip is white with a strip of red around the neck, and the away strip for the first time is purple, both kits have a ground breaking new technology in the form of a gripper print.


Six Nations

England competes annually in the Six Nations Championship, which is played against five other European nations: France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales. The Six Nations started out as the Home Nations Championship in 1883 which England won with a Triple Crown. England have won the title more times than any other nation by winning it outright 25 times, and sharing victory ten times. Their longest wait between championships was 18 years (1892–1910). During the Six Nations, England also contests the Calcutta Cup with Scotland (which England first won in 1880) and the Millennium Trophy with Ireland (which England first won in 1988). The matches between England and France are traditionally known as "Le Crunch."

World Cup

England have contested every Rugby World Cup since it began in 1987, reaching the final three times and winning it once in 2003.

In the inaugural tournament they finished second in their pool before losing to Wales in the quarter-finals. They again finished pool runners-up in 1991 but recovered to beat France in their quarter-final, and then Scotland in their semi-final, en-route to a 12–6 final defeat to Australia.

In 1995 England topped their group and defeated Australia 25–22 at the quarter-final stage before being beaten by the All Blacks in the semi-final. Their third-fourth place play-off match against France was lost 19–9.

The 1999 competition saw England again finish second in the group stage. Though they proceeded to win a play-off game against Fiji they went out of the tournament in the quarter-finals, losing 44–21 to South Africa.

England exacted revenge over South Africa in the early stages of the 2003 tournament, winning 25–6 to qualify for the knockout stages as winners of Pool C. They defeated Wales in their quarter-final, before a subsequent semi-final victory against the French earned them a place in the final in Sydney. After a tense match and a 20 minute period of extra time after Jonny Wilkinson kicked over the magic drop goal, England triumphed 20–17 over Australia to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

The 2007 defence of the cup in France got off to a poor start, with a below par victory over the United States and a heavy 36–0 defeat to South Africa leaving the holders on the brink of elimination at the group stage. Improved performances against Samoa and Tonga saw England again reach the knockout stages as pool runners-up, before a surprise 12–10 defeat of Australia in Marseillemarker and a narrow 14–9 victory over the host nation France carried England to a second successive final appearance. The final was played in Paris on 20 October against South Africa, who won by 15 points to 6.

England's Jonny Wilkinson became the highest overall points scorer in World Cup history when he kicked all 12 points in England's quarter-final victory over Australia in 2007. He kicked a further 9 points (including a drop goal) in the semi final and 6 in the final defeat to South Africa. England have the fourth most points in World Cup history with 957, and the highest number of drop-goals (18).


England have won 328 of their 620 Test matches, a winning record of 52.90%. When the World Rankings were introduced in October 2003, England were ranked first. They briefly fell to second in September that year before regaining first place. They fell to second, and then to third in June 2004. After the 2005 Six Nations they fell to sixth where they remained until they moved into fifth in December that year. In 2006, their ranking again fell and they finished the year ranked seventh. They are currently ranked sixth - behind New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Ireland and France - as of 30 November 2009.

Their Test record against all nations, updated 2009-11-21:
IRB World Ranking Leaders

Against Played Won Lost Drawn For Against % Won
New Zealand
Pacific Islanders
South Africa
United States
Total 620 328 244 48 9861 7450


Current Squad

Martin Johnson named a revised 32-man England squad for the autumn internationals on the 26 October. Nick Kennedy and Ayoola Erinle were called up respectively as cover for Mike Tindall and Richard Blaze. Paul Doran-Jones was called up as cover for David Wilson ahead of the game against Argentina. Ahead of the match against New Zealand, Simon Shaw, Chris Ashton, Paul Sackey and David Flatman were all called into the squad.

  • Caps updated before the Autumn internationals.

Head Coach: Martin Johnson

Notable players

See also - List of England national rugby union footballers

Four former England representatives have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame: Bill Beaumont, Martin Johnson, Jason Leonard, and Wavell Wakefield.

Wavell Wakefield represented England in 31 Tests between 1920 and 1927, including 13 Tests as captain. He was involved in three Five Nations Grand Slams in 1921, 1923 and 1924. Playing as , Wakefield introduced new elements to back row tactics which beforehand concentrated on the set piece. He became a Member of Parliament in 1935, and was knighted in 1944. He became the RFU President in 1950 and following his retirement from politics was awarded the title the first Baron Wakefield of Kendal.

Between 1975 and 1982, Bill Beaumont represented England in 34 Tests. Playing at , he was captain between 1978 and 1982 in 21 Tests including the 1980 Grand Slam — England's first since 1957. Later that year, he captained the British Lions to South Africa - the first time an Englishman had captained the Lions since 1930. Furthermore, Beaumont represented the Barbarians FC on fifteen occasions.

The youngest ever England captain at 22, Will Carling represented England in 72 Tests, and as captain 59 times between 1988 and 1996.He was best known as a superlative leader, motivating England to a remarkable three Grand Slams in five years, including back to back slams in 1991 and 1992. He also led England to the final of the 1991 World Cup, and captained the Barbarians FC. His playing talents were not as flashy as some of his colleagues, but his effectiveness cemented him as a first choice at on the selection sheet. On merit alone it is quite possible he would already be in the Hall of Fame were it not for some outspoken tendencies of his with respect to the English RFU committee ("Old Farts"), who may as a result be reluctant to acknowledge his achievements. He was awarded the OBE in 1991.

Described as arguably "the greatest forward" to play for England, Martin Johnson played 84 Tests for England, and eight Tests for the British and Irish Lions. He first represented England in 1993, and later that year the Lions. He captained the Lions to South Africa in 1997, and in 1999 was appointed captain of England. He became England's most successful ever captain. He became the first player to captain two Lions tours when he captained them in Australia in 2001. He retired from Test rugby after he led England to a Six Nations Grand Slam and World Cup victory in 2003 and has since become the team Manager.

Jason Leonard, also known as "The Fun Bus", appeared 114 times for England at prop, which was the world record for international appearances for a national team until 2005, when it was surpassed by Australia's scrum-half George Gregan. He was on the England team that finished runners up to Australia in the 1991 Rugby World Cup final, but avenged this twelve years later, coming on as a substitute for Phil Vickery in England's victorious 2003 Rugby World Cup final appearance. He also went on three British and Irish Lions tours where he was capped five times.

Individual records

The record for Test career points for England is held by Jonny Wilkinson with 1023 points. The record for tries is held by Rory Underwood with 49 tries; Underwood is also England's most capped back with 85 caps. The most capped England player is former Jason Leonard who made 114 appearances over his 14-year career. England's youngest ever Test player was Henri Laird who was 18 years and 134 days old when he played against Wales in 1927.


Club versus country

Although the England team is governed by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), players have been contracted to their clubs since the advent of professionalism in late 1995. Since then, players have often been caught in a "power struggle" between their clubs and the RFU; this is commonly referred to as a club versus country conflict. The first major conflict between England's top clubs (who play in the English Premiership) and the RFU occurred in 1998, when some of the clubs refused to release players to tour Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The tour became known as the "Tour from hell" after an England squad of second-string players were defeated in all four Tests, including a 76–0 defeat by Australia. The clubs also withdrew from the 1998/99 European Cup (now called the Heineken Cup).

In 2001, the top clubs and the RFU formed England Rugby to help govern the club and international game. The parties agreed to restrict the number of matches at club and international level that elite players (a group of 50 or 60 players selected by the RFU) could play in order to prevent player burnout and injuries. In return for releasing players from club commitments, the clubs were to receive compensation from the RFU. This agreement was considered central to the England victory in the 2003 World Cup. Sir Clive Woodward, England coach from November 1997, resigned in 2004 because he was unable to get the access to the players that he wanted; "I wanted more from the union - more training days with the players, more influence over the way they were treated - and ended up with less." Andy Robinson, Woodward's successor, blamed the lack of control over players for his team's unsuccessful record. Brian Ashton, who took over from Robinson, intentionally named his playing squad for Six Nations matches in 2007 at an early opportunity in the hope that their clubs would not play them in the weekend prior to a Test. The RFU and the Premiership clubs are negotiating a similar deal to the one in 2001 that will enable international players to be released into the England squad prior to international matches.


The following is a list of all England coaches. The first appointed coach was Don White in 1969. The current coach is Martin Johnson who took over in 2008, after Brian Ashton was sacked. Johnson's first match in charge was celebrated with a 39-13 win over the Pacific Islanders at Twickenham on 8 November 2008.
Name Tenure Tests Won Drew Lost Win percentage
Don White 20 December 1969 – 17 April 1971 11 3 1 7 27.3%
John Elders 1972 – 16 March 1974 16 6 1 9 37.5%
John Burgess 18 January 1975 – 31 May 1975 6 1 0 5 16.7%
Peter Colston 3 January 1976 – 17 March 1979 18 6 1 11 33.3%
Mike Davis 24 November 1979 – 6 March 1982 16 10 2 4 62.5%
Dick Greenwood 15 January 1983 – 20 April 1985 17 4 2 11 23.5%
Martin Green 1 June 1985 – 8 June 1987 14 5 0 9 35.7%
Geoff Cooke 16 January 1988 – 19 March 1994 35 13 1 21 37.1%
Jack Rowell 4 June 1994 – 12 July 1997 29 21 0 8 72.4%
Sir Clive Woodward 15 November 1997 – 2 September 2004 83 59 2 22 71.1%
Andy Robinson 15 October 2004 – 29 November 2006 22 9 0 13 40.9%
Brian Ashton 20 December 2006 – 1 June 2008 22 12 0 10 54.5%
Rob Andrew 1 June 2008 – 30 June 2008 2 0 0 2 00.0%
Martin Johnson 1 July 2008 – 14 6 0 8 %

Media coverage

in England matches are shown either on Sky Sports or the terrestrial channels BBC or ITV.

In Australia the England national rugby union team home games are currently broadcast on Setanta Sports Australia.

See also


Notes and references

  1. Marshall, Francis, Football; the Rugby union game, page 140, (1892) (London Paris Melbourne, Cassell and company, limited)
  2. Lewis, Steve, One Among Equals, p274 (2008) (Vertical Editions)
  3. Statistics explanation
  4. A Triple Crown is when a Home Nation defeats the other three in one tournament.
  5. Polanski (2003), pg 38–39.
  6. This table excludes matches played against the Barbarians and New Zealand Maori as they are not full representative teams.
  7. Tuck (2003), pg 195.
  8. Morgan (2002), pg 56.
  9. All records were taken from
  10. Farmer (2006), pg 75.
  11. As Martin Johnson was absent from the 2008 mid-year Tests in New Zealand, Rob Andrew coached the team.

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