In what has been a challenging year for England Rugby, there has been both fantastic success and bitter disappointment across our representative teams. Here's a look back on 2018...
2018 got off to a great start as it was confirmed that England head coach Eddie Jones would continue in his position until August 2021.
England’s men’s, women’s and U20s squads were announced for their respective Six Nations campaigns and both Sevens programmes trained together ahead of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series leg in Sydney.
Wins over Italy (46-15) and Wales (12-6) was followed by a 25-13 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield, only England’s second defeat under the stewardship of Jones. Those results were mirrored by England U20s, who also fell short against the Scots away.
It was the Red Roses who remained unbeaten throughout February, with a combined score of 137-15 over Italy, Wales and Scotland - Simon Middleton’s side showing the clinical edge that had got them into the Women’s Rugby World Cup final the year prior.
A 22-16 loss to France in Paris meant England would not retain their Six Nations title from 2017 with Ireland then coming Twickenham a week later in search of a Grand Slam, and they would not be denied, running out eventual 24-15 winners.
The U20s had a strong finish to their campaign, overhauling eventual Six Nations champions France 22-6, before beating Ireland 48-15 at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. They finished joint top with Les Bleus, but were denied the title on points difference.
The Red Roses had their Grand Slam hopes dashed in the final moments of their meet with France in Grenoble, in front of an impassioned 17,440 crowd, as the hosts crossed the whitewash in the 78th minute to win 18-17. Undeterred, they put in a fine performance against Ireland in their final outing, running out 33-11 winners at the Ricoh Arena.
April belonged to the success of the England Sevens programme, as both men’s and women’s sides won bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in Australia’s Gold Coast.
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It’s been an amazing experience here at the #gc2018 #commonwealthgames. Love the journey with these blokes! Thank you to everyone who supported us here in Australia and at home. Brilliant to be bringing home a medal as a reward for so much hard work by the whole team #rugby7s
The men trailed South Africa 14-0 at half-time of their bronze medal match, but a superb second-half comeback courtesy of a Phil Burgess double and a third from Tom Mitchell helped them secure a 21-14 win, and their first medal in the games since silver in 2006.
After pool stage wins over Fiji (17-5), Wales (45-0) and a 29-12 loss to hosts Australia, England’s women progressed to the semi-finals where they sustained a 26-5 loss to eventual gold medallists New Zealand.
But in their bronze medal match England dominated possession and ran in four tries to record a 24-19 win, securing third place, in what was the first time women's sevens had been included at the games.
England Women stalwart Danielle Waterman announced her retirement from international rugby after 82 Tests spanning 15 years.
She made her Test debut at the age of 18 in 2003, England’s youngest ever player at the time, and went on to feature in four Women’s Rugby World Cups. She was a try-scorer in the 2014 World Cup win and also played sevens for Team GB at the 2016 Olympic games. She bowed out as one of England Women’s leading try-scorers with 47.
England and the Barbarians put on a show for the Twickenham faithful in a non-Test Quilter Cup match, where the invitational side won a 15-try thriller, 63-45.
On their summer tour to South Africa, England might have been beaten in the series but they ended their three-Test campaign on a high when Jonny May’s late try secured a 25-10 victory – a first on Springbok soil since 2000.
At the World Rugby Under 20 Championship, after five wins in-a-row England would reach a sixth-straight final in the competition, but they were ultimately overpowered by hosts France, who won 33-25 in Beziers.
Twickenham Stadium hosted the ninth leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series where Simon Amor’s England progressed out of the group to beat Australia (21-17) in the cup quarter-final, but were beaten by South Africa in the last four and then lost narrowly 21-19 in the bronze medal match.
San Francisco’s AT&T Park was the venue of the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens which saw England’s men progress to the final where they lost to New Zealand 33-12, but there was silverware for the women who recovered from a first round defeat to Ireland to secure the Challenge Trophy.
July also saw the retirement of an England legend as Rochelle ‘Rocky’ Clark called time on her 15-year international career. The prop played at four World Cups including the win in 2014, made 137 appearances for her country, the most by any England player ever and retired as the most capped women’s international.
"Dear Rocky, you’ll have the most amazing career with wonderful memories along the way. Be proud of what you’ve achieved."— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) August 1, 2018
Rocky's letter to her younger self. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/lXXylK063y
British Airways came on board as England Rugby's official airline partner, and principal partner to Twickenham Stadium. England Sevens men's and women's squads were announced ahead of the 2018/19 season, and the Red Roses' Quilter Internationals were confirmed with Tests against USA, Canada and Ireland. Three different venues were confirmed for the three matches, including what would be a first game for the side at Castle Park, Doncaster.
New faces joined up with England men's squad, including defence coach John Mitchell and Exeter Chiefs prop Ben Moon. Old faces returned to the fold too in Dylan Hartley and Jack Nowell, whilst we also bid farewell to Joe Marler, who announced his retirement from international rugby.
Preparation for England's men was in full flow ahead of their Quilter Internationals...
And RFU referee Sara Cox made history...
It was three out of four wins for England's men in November, as Eddie Jones' side bested South Africa 12-11, Japan 35-15 and Australia 37-18. The one loss came at the hands of double World Cup champions New Zealand, 15-16.
Whilst the Red Roses boasted a 100% win ratio throughout their Quilter Internationals with victories over USA (57-5), Canada (27-19) and Ireland (37-15).
We also remembered an historic day, 15 years ago...
The first England Women XV contracts for the 2019 season were awarded to three players transitioning from the England Women Sevens programme in: Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt and Jess Breach.