- Ask Steven
Keeping the faithJohn GriffithsFebruary 26, 2014
But for Dan Cole's injury England might have fielded three unchanged sides in a row. When did that last happen? Peter Smith, England
The last time three successive unchanged starting fifteens turned out for England was the start of the first-ever Six Nations, in 2000.
The following side faced Ireland, France and then Wales that season: Matt Perry; Austin Healey, Mike Tindall, Mike Catt, Ben Cohen; Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Dawson (c); Jason Leonard, Phil Greening, Phil Vickery, Garath Archer, Simon Shaw, Richard Hill, Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio.
Tindall and Cohen were new caps against Ireland at the start of that run. England won all three, then overwhelmed Italy in Rome (where Darren Garforth started instead of Vickery), before Vickery was restored when England went in search of a Grand Slam against Scotland at Murrayfield and were beaten 19-13.
That was roughly in the middle of Clive Woodward's reign as head coach. The most noteworthy near-miss since then was in the 2007 Rugby World Cup under Brian Ashton's management. The side was unchanged for the quarter final against Australia and semi final against France, but Josh Lewsey was injured during the second game and had to forfeit his place on the wing to Mark Cueto for the Final against South Africa - when Cueto so nearly scored a try in the left corner.
John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.