We continue our study of the best players to have played for England – statistically speaking – by looking at the best young players and the most successful players in terms of victories over the southern hemisphere and the four most powerful nations of Europe.
The Young Guns XV
This is a team made up of the most successful players when they were under the age of 22.
It’s a fascinating team in that many of the players are from the Stuart Lancaster or Eddie Jones eras, showcasing the growing success of England’s age-grade teams and the academy set-ups across the country.
Yet, in some ways, it does show that England still wastes the talent that is available. Bath’s Henry Thomas made an impressive start to his career while still at Sale, but injury and a lack of consistent club form have meant he has been leapfrogged by the likes of Kieran Brookes, Paul Hill and Kyle Sinckler in the England pecking order.
At fly-half Jonny Wilkinson really was a young prodigy, but England’s current fly-half options in Owen Farrell and George Ford also have impressive stats, as well as Colin Laird – the youngest player to have ever represented England when he was just 18 years and 124 days old on January 15, 1927.
Owen Farrell: 21 games, 249 points, 2 tries, 31 conversions, 58 penalties, 1 drop goal, 13 wins (64%)
George Ford: 17 games, 14o points, 3 tries, 22 conversions, 26 penalties, 1 drop goal, 14 win (82%)
Colin Laird: 10 games, 5 tries, 8 wins (80%)
Here’s the team:
1) Jason Leonard: 9 games, 7 wins (78%) / Mako Vunipola: 10 games, 7 wins (70%) / David Flatman: 8 games, 7 wins (88%)
2) Phil Greening: 5 games, 3 wins (60%)
3) Henry Thomas: 7 games, 6 wins (86%)
4) Joe Launchbury: 19 games, 2 tries, 14 wins (74%) / Richard Cove-Smith: 5 games, 4 wins (90%)
5) Maro Itoje: 7 games, 7 wins (100%)
6) Cherry Pillman: 11 games, 2 tries, 1 conversion, 7 wins (68%)
7) Jim Greenwood: 9 games, 8 conversions, 1 penalty, 8 wins (89%)
8) Billy Vunipola: 21 games, 4 tries, 12 wins (57%)
9) Ben Youngs: 24 games, 6 tries, 15 wins (65%)
10) Jonny Wilkinson: 35 games, 533 points, 4 tries, 90 conversions, 105 penalties, 6 drop goals, 26 wins (75%)
11) Anthony Watson: 24 games, 12 tries, 19 wins (79%)
12) Peter Cranmer: 13 games, 1 try, 1 penalty, 2 drop kicks (75%)
13) Manu Tuilagi: 22 games, 11 tries, 14 wins (66%)
14) Jack Nowell: 15 games, 8 tries, 12 wins (80%) / Ben Cohen: 12 games, 8 tries, 11 wins (92%)
15) Iain Balshaw: 14 games, 5 tries, 12 wins (86%)
Now, let’s move on to the players with the most wins over the southern hemisphere.
The Southern Hemisphere Beaters XV
For a long period of England’s history, accusations were levelled at the team that they were more concerned with beating their rivals in Europe rather than expanding their horizons to those of the southern hemisphere, and indeed this team seems to support that theory.
The side is made up predominantly of the players from the 2003 World Cup squad, with only Austin Healey being the ‘odd one out’ – although he was very much part and parcel of the Woodward era.
1) Jason Leonard (13 wins)
2) Steve Thompson (11 wins)
3) Phil Vickery (14 wins)
4) Martin Johnson (14 wins)
5) Ben Kay (12 wins)
6) Richard Hill (12 wins)
7) Neil Back (13 wins)
8) Lawrence Dallaglio (12 wins)
9) Matt Dawson (9 wins)
10) Jonny Wilkinson (14 wins)
11) Ben Cohen (11 wins)
12) Will Greenwood (11 wins)
13) Mike Tindall (15 wins)
14) Austin Healey (9 wins)
15) Jason Robinson (11 wins)
Finally, let’s look at the players who managed to beat the ‘home nations’ and France the most times.
Conquerors of Europe XV
One constant that has run throughout English rugby history is the desire to be the best side in the northern hemisphere; therefore, we’ve chosen to look at the players with the most wins in Europe. We have left out victories over Italy as they would have occurred with more regularity since they joined the ‘Six Nations’ tournament in 2000.
This is a team very different to the previous outfit and includes players from the early decades of rugby’s history. It even has room for current player Dan Cole, who now has 22 wins over Ireland, France, Scotland and Wales.
Lock Ron Cove-Smith beat the major nations of Europe 21 times during his time as an international in the 1920s. He captained the Lions tour of South Africa in 1924 and led England to a Grand Slam in 1928.
Blackheath’s Cyril Lowe scored 18 tries in 25 games for England, but he also won back-to-back Grand Slams in 1913 and 1914. He scored eight tries in the 1914 edition of the tournament – a record that still stands today.
1) Jason Leonard (46 wins)
2) Brian Moore (28 wins)
3) Dan Cole (22 wins)
4) Martin Johnson (32 wins)
5) Ron Cove-Smith (21 wins)
6) Richard Hill (24 wins)
7) Neil Back (23 wins)
8) Lawrence Dallaglio (28 wins)
9) Matt Dawson (24 wins)
10) Jonny Wilkinson (32 wins)
11) Rory Underwood (35 wins)
12) Will Carling (33 wins)
13) Jeremy Guscott (30 wins)
14) Cyril Lowe (21 wins)
15) Mike Catt (24 wins)
Hopefully these sides have given you some food for thought. However, it’s pretty difficult to ignore the unprecedented achievements of the England teams during Clive Woodward’s time in charge.
Can Eddie Jones and his players eventually match them?
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
Read More About: Anthony Watson, Austin Healey, Ben Cohen, ben youngs, billy vunipola, brian moore, cherry pillman, cyril lowe, dan cole, danny grewcock, david flatman, Henry Thomas, iain balshaw, Jack Nowell, jason leonard, Jason Robinson, jeremy guscott, Jim Greenwood, joe launchbury, jonny wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Martin Johnson, Matt Dawson, mike catt, mike tindall, neil back, peter cranmer, phil greening, phil vickery, Richard Hill, ron cove-smith, rory underwood, steve thompson, will carling, will greenwood