There is, inevitably, a slightly hungover feeling about the year after a World Cup. The next one is three years away, familiar figures disappear from the scene and new ones take up the space they have left.
It was the year of Eddie’s England, of the Irish in Chicago and all of the All Blacks continuing to win, most of the time anyway. This was 2016, by the number…..
0 defeats or draws for England, their 13-0 record achieving only the second ‘perfect season’ of the professional era, following New Zealand’s 14-0 in 2013. Even so Eddie Jones was right, as well as smart, to defer to England’s 16-1 season in 2003 which included a World Cup victory and has some claim to be the best single calendar year ever enjoyed by one team.
Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)
2 matches lost by Ireland from a leading position at half-time. They were not alone in this — it was a fate shared by Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ireland, Moldova, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Uruguay and Wales. But it did consolidate Ireland’s lead in all-time defeats after a half-time lead, with 73 to Scotland’s 55, Australia’s 52 and England’s 50.
3 victories after trailing at half-time, two of them against Australia, by resiliently invincible England. Uruguay also came from behind three times, but Wales stay well ahead in the all-time list with 68 wins to France’s 60 — England now have 44.
3 yellow cards for Russian flanker Victor Gresev, the most by anyone in 2016. The ex-Wasps veteran had an eventful year, since he also scored seven tries in 10 appearances — and Russia won all three matches in which he was carded.
7 losing appearances by Uruguayan centre Andreas Rocco. Nothing terribly unusual in that — 18 players including nine Argentinians lost nine matches, and a truck-load of Rocco’s compatriots lost more in 2015 when Los Teros compiled all sorts of records for losing. But Rocco appears to qualify as 2016’s Jinx of the Year, since they lost all seven matches in which he appeared, but won seven out of eight when he did not.
8 defeats for the Springboks, their most in a single year and a serious contender for the worst 12 months in their history along with 1965, when they lost seven matches out of eight. Twenty tries in 12 matches was their lowest of the professional era, and the points difference of -89 their worst ever.
10 tries for Israel Dagg, the most by any player in 2016. Fellow All Black Beauden Barrett’s nine was the most tries scored in a single year by a half-back. An honourable mention here for German flanker Jacobus Otto, who scored nine tries in eight matches including one in their memorable victory over Uruguay.
It was a remarkable year for Israel Dagg Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)
13 winning appearances by eight different players — six Englishmen and two All Blacks, among whom front row compadres Dan Cole and Dylan Hartley were the only players to start every match of England’s invincible year.
13 appearances off the bench, the most ever in a single year, by Argentinian hooker Julian Montoya, who did not make a single start. Reserve front-rowers are always likely to pile up appearances from the bench and he is one of a number of sufferers from the modern trend towards hooker-skippers, making the incumbent particularly tough to shift. Between them Montoya, England’s Jamie George, Ireland’s Sean Cronin and Australia’s Tatafu Polota-Nau won 37 caps in 2016, only one of them — by Cronin — as a starter.
14 drop goals in the 267 international matches played in 2016, exactly as many as Jonny Wilkinson landed by himself in 2003.
15 starts by Australia’s Bernard Foley, the most by any player and one short of the all-time single year record of 16, set by Philippe Saint-Andre in 1999. Wallaby skipper Stephen Moore also won 15 caps, but came off the bench against France.
18 years and 333 days was the age of Spanish full-back Alvar Gimeno Soria, who came off the bench against Tonga in Madrid last month to be the youngest player in international rugby in 2016. His debut was rapidly followed by his first start, and his first yellow card, in Spain’s victory over Uruguay in Malaga.
Canada great Jamie Cudmore was the oldest player to run out in Test rugby in 2016. Michael Steele/Getty Images
38 years and 80 days was the age of Canadian lock Jamie Cudmore, the oldest player in international rugby in 2016, when he played against Samoa in Grenoble last month. Cudmore celebrated by confirming his standing as the game’s great modern recidivist, becoming the oldest player ever to be yellow-carded. It was his seventh, moving him to the top of the all-time list alongside Marco Bortolomi (112 caps) and Bryan Habana (127 caps), whose careers have been much longer than his 43 caps.
45 tries since the start of 2010 by Julian Savea, comfortably (even if you argue that the decade did not start until 2011) the leading scorer of the current decade. Habana is a rather distant closest pursuer with 31, while George North heads northern hemisphere scorers with 29.
47 consecutive undefeated test appearances — an all-time record unless anyone knows better — by All Black prop Wyatt Crockett, who as well as possessing the most Wild West name in rugby has also emerged as the the anti-Rocco , the modern game’s great lucky charm. The All Blacks have lost three times since they went down at Twickenham in 2012 — to South Africa in 2014, Australia last year and Ireland in 2016. While a squad regular, Crockett missed all three and has been in 30 consecutive winning teams — 19 as a replacement — since playing in the draw against Australia in 2014. His current career winning percentage from 58 appearances is 97.41%. Brodie Retallick, also absent in Chicago, has played in 20 wins in a row, 18 as a starter, since last year’s defeat by the Wallabies.
80 tries scored by the All Blacks in 2016. Japan were next on 53, followed by England with 46.
Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni have been on the losing side more than any other. Stu Forster/Getty Images
85-0. The heaviest defeat of the year, inflicted by Japan on Korea in their Asian Five Nations match at Kanagawa on Apri 30l. Japan, playing the first match since the World Cup, awarded no fewer than 17 new caps among their 23. Among the newcomers wings Kentero Kodama and Hajime Yamashita scored five tries and three tries respectively. Whatever happened to the days when Korea looked a serious challenger to Japanese hegemony in Asia? Argentina scored 87 points against Chile on June 4, but their neighbours at least managed 12 in reply
86 caps to the end of 2016 by Wallaby prop James Slipper, who appears to be staging a long-term stealth assault on the all-time caps record. He’s still only 27, and only compatriots Matt Giteau (87) and George Smith (86) have won as many caps by the same age. Just over half of his appearances (44) have been as a replacement, but 42 starts make him more than a career bench-warmer. Given the durability of props it is far from inconceivable that he could still be playing at the 2023 World Cup, and have around 170 caps. Slipper’s comparatively low profile extends to not yet having scored a try in any of his 86 matches, a record exceeded by only a long-term rival for that all-time record, All Black Owen Franks who has still to score in 90 matches, all but 10 as a starter.
88 losses, making them the most defeated international rugby players of all time, inflicted to the end of 2016 on Italian stalwarts Martin Castrogiovanni and Sergio Parisse. This record has long appeared the destiny of Parisse, the likelihood of his becoming the first player ever to lose 100 tests a weird testimony to his greatness, durability and grace in almost constant adversity.
91.48% is the winning percentage of the All Blacks since 2010, or 85 wins and two draws from 94 matches. Next up is England, a mere 22.81% behind on 68.67%. The All Blacks could lose every match until the end of the 2019 World Cup and still finish the decade comfortably above 60 per cent.
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
110 Years, 346 days and 29 matches taken by Ireland to beat the All Blacks. If England were undoubtedly the team of 2016, this was the result of the year.
134 caps won to the end of 2016 by Gethin Jenkins, the most-capped active player. The Welsh prop also holds the all-time records for a British player and for a front-rower after overtaking Jason Leonard in 2015. His 129 Welsh caps are so far ahead of his compatriots — albeit with Alun-Wyn Jones (105) in serious pursuit — that he has both won (61) and lost (65) more matches for Wales than anyone else, and has a solid lead in both categories. The arm injury ruling him out of the Six Nations — and presumably also limiting his Lions chances — might have ended his chance of overtaking Richie McCaw’s all-time mark of 148 caps, but he has surprised us so often already that this should not be taken as read.
197 points scored in international matches in 2016 by Owen Farrell, more than any other player. Only Eddie Jones’s decision to take him off during the second half against Australia stopped him becoming the fifth player to score 200 in a calendar year — the record still standing to Neil Jenkins with his 263 in 1999. Still only 25, he already has 540 points, and at this rate should by the end of the 2019 World Cup be within striking distance of Jonny Wilkinson’s 1246. His 42 penalties were also the most in the year, while Beauden Barrett landed the most conversions, 40.
350 defeats suffered to the end of 2016 by Scotland, more than any other nation. Ireland is not last behind on 346. At their current rate of progression, seven defeats in seven years, the All Blacks should suffer their 350th defeat some time in 2259.
768 points scored to the end of 2016 by both Merab Kvirikashvili of Georgia and Florin Vlaicu of Romania, highest-ever scorers from Tier Two nations and active leaders from anywhere after overtaking Morne Steyn (733 points) and Ayumu Goromaru (708 points, did not play for Japan in 2016) during the year. Kvirikashvili got there in 91 games to the Romanian’s 96, but Vlaicu scored 125 points to his 99 as Romania won 10 matches out of 11 during 2016.
1252 days and 23 consecutive defeats between victories for Sweden, who finally ended their grim run by beating Luxembourg 19-0 in Luxembourg City on November 5. Luxembourg had only two weeks earlier ended a run of 1079 days without a defeat — and 10 consecutive victories — when they lost 31-24 to Latvia in Jelgava.
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2016 in numbers: From a lack of drop-goals to the 110-year wait
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