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Saturday, March 18, at 5 p.m. local time in Dublin, Ireland will play England in the match of the new millennium. The visitors will attempt to set a new world record for consecutive Test match wins at nineteen. To date, England have tied New Zealand with eighteen victories, and need one but more.
Ireland, playing on home ground, are determined to end England's streak in the same successful upset result as their win over the All Blacks, in, of all ironic places, Chicago's Soldiers Field last year. This surprising win ended the Kiwi's eighteen game skein.
Return to game one of the streak, England's final contest in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The team's expected victory over 19th ranked Uruguay was cold consolation for being eliminated from the RWC after pool losses to Wales and Australia. A cloud of despair covered the traditional home of rugby. A newspaper stated, "An Island in Mourning."
Heads had to roll, and the first to go was England's head coach Stuart Lancaster who stepped down in November 2015. The proposed next person on the chopping block was the English Rugby Football Union's CEO Ian Ritchie hired in 2011. He came not from a rugby background but as head of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, home of the Wimbledon tournament. Displeasing the English rugby community was the announcement that Ritchie received a £100,000 bonus for shepherding the 2015 RWC in England and Wales to a record breaking financial success. That boosted his annual income to £700,000. The ultimate vote was to let Ritchie stay on as CEO.
That decision would lead to the RFU searching for a new coach until one available international candidate emerged: Eddie Jones. His past credentials included head coach at Australia and, more recently, Japan. The Brave Blossoms’ win over South Africa in that 2015 RWC brought him accolades for staging the biggest Test match upset of all time.
With Jones at the helm, a revitalized England began to win match after match starting with last season's RBS Six Nations Championship, when the Red Roses went undefeated, beating the other five nations and winning a Grand Slam.
Then came England's three-game tour to second ranked Australia when a positive and acceptable tour outcome would have been two wins. Instead, England ripped off three victories, shocking the Wallabies, adding on wins eight, nine, and ten to the streak.
In Ireland's past ten-home contests at Lansdowne Road, the side is 7-2-1, the two losses coming against New Zealand and Wales. The Irish can also look to a 19-9 victory against England the last times these teams played in Dublin in 2015.
One person watching with conflicted interest tomorrow will be Stuart Lancaster who became a back coach at Leinster RFC, an Irish club with many players on the Irish XV.
For the record, England hold a dominant 76-47-8 in 131 matches against Ireland.
England's winning streak (October 15, 2015 to ...)
1 - Uruguay (World Ranking 19) 60-3
2 - Scotland (9) 15-9
3 - Italy (12) 40-9
4 - Ireland (8) 21-10
5 - Wales (4) 25-21
6 - France (8) 31-21
7 - Wales (5) 27-13
8 - Australia (2) 39-28
9 - Australia (2) 23-7
10 - Australia (4) 44-40
11 - South Africa (4) 37-21
12 - Fiji (10) 58-15
13 - Argentina (9) 27-14
14 - Australia (3) 37-21
15 - France (8) 19-16
16 - Wales (5) 21-16
17 - Italy (14) 36-15
18 - Scotland (5) 61-21
19 - Ireland (4) ????
And, admittedly, England did not play the All Blacks.