England became only the fourth country to finish a year unbeaten since South Africa achieved the feat in 1995. But what can they learn from the other teams who went a calendar year without losing a match?
We take a look at previous unbeaten teams and what followed.
South Africa – 1995
The South African team celebrate winning the 1995 World Cup. David Rogers/ALLSPORT
South Africa warmed up to hosting the World Cup with quite an average start to 1994. It started with a defeat to England, before they tied the tour in the second Test. They suffered back-to-back defeats to the All Blacks before going the rest of the year unbeaten with a draw against the Kiwis and four wins over Argentina (twice), Scotland and Wales.
That set up the ultimate year for the Springboks, in which they defeated Australia, France and New Zealand on their way to winning the World Cup on home soil. After securing the Webb Ellis Cup, they added the scalps of Wales and England at the end of the year. But they could not maintain that level of invincibility.
The following year Australia and New Zealand handed back-to-back defeats to the Boks. They won back some pride in victory over Australia in Bloemfontein, before the All Blacks got further retribution for the World Cup final defeat with three consecutive victories in South Africa. The Boks finished the year strongly with wins against Argentina (twice), France (twice) and Wales but 1995 was when they peaked.
All Blacks – 1997
Jeff Wilson scores against Ireland in 1997. Mike Cooper /Allsport
John Hart came in as head coach in 1996 and after a nine-game winning streak he saw his unbeaten season finished by the Springboks in their final Test of the year.
But the promising signs were there as Hart’s All Blacks went on a 12-game unbeaten run the following year. Australia were on the losing end three times but the Springboks came close to knocking them off their perch in Johannesburg, but fell to a 32-35 defeat.
The All Blacks learnt their lessons and in the return fixture hit the Springboks for 55 points, Ireland for 63 and Wales for 42 points.
It set up a thrilling finish to the year for them against England and despite trailing 23-9 at the break, they responded emphatically in the second-half to draw 26-26.
How did it end? Well, Hart’s side started the next year by hammering England 64-22 and 40-10 before the house of cards came tumbling down. Both Australia and South Africa handed the Kiwis defeats as New Zealand lost four-in-a-row.
Ireland – 2009
Ireland celebrate their 2009 grand slam. (Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis via Getty Images)
After an abysmal 2008 which saw Ireland lose to France, Wales and England in the Six Nations, Eddie O’Sullivan exited as Irish head coach. A 22-3 defeat to the All Blacks followed, but despite their bad run of form, O’Sullivan had set the foundations for the year to come under Declan Kidney.
Ireland set 2009 alight, starting with a Grand Slam triumph in Cardiff and then eased past USA and Canada in the summer tour. Their impressive year was threatened by the Wallabies in November, but Brian O’Driscoll’s last minute try, on his 100th Test cap, salvaged a 20-20 draw. Fiji were brushed aside before an almost perfect year was rounded off with a 15-10 victory over South Africa.
But push on, Ireland did not. The following year didn’t quite go to plan for Kidney as defeats to eventual Grand Slam winners France, and Scotland made for a forgettable Six Nations. A 66-28 humbling against the All Blacks and a narrow 22-15 defeat to Australia followed.
It was a harsh autumn for the Irish as South Africa completed a clean sweep of victories for the Tri-Nations teams over Ireland and the All Blacks were at it again in Dublin, beating Ireland 38-18.
All Blacks – 2013
All Blacks celebrate their unbeaten year in 2013. Phil Walter/Getty Images
New Zealand looked to be going through 2012 unbeaten, but England claimed a 38-21 victory at Twickenham in their final game of the year. Come 2013, Steve Hansen’s men had learnt their lesson.
The All Blacks were sensational, winning 14 games in 2013; they beat France four times, Australia (three), South Africa, Argentina (both twice), England and Japan.
They rounded the perfect year with the perfect try against Ireland. They were trailing going into the final throes of the match but went from inside their own half to score in the left corner through Ryan Crotty to tie the game and deny Ireland a historic victory. Aaron Cruden, at the second time of asking, split the posts with the conversion to put the finishing touches to a superb year.
It wasn’t much of a come down for the All Blacks in 2014. What started with three victories over England, and a blip in the form of a draw to Australia, ended with five straight wins after their only defeat of the year to South Africa.
It was the perfect preparation for their second World Cup triumph in 2015.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18200003/will-england-follow-springboks-all-blacks-ireland-unbeaten-run
What happened next to the teams who went a year unbeaten?
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