Scrum Sevens
The lowest of the low
November 18, 2009
England's Mike Tindall reflects on defeat against Ireland, Ireland v England, Six Nations Championship, Croke Park, February 24, 2007
Mike Tindall reflects on a crushing defeat to Ireland in 2007 © Getty Images

The All Blacks are coming. The mood in England has been one of pessimism and spite following the national side's loss to the Wallabies and turgid victory over an under-prepared Argentina, and the doom-mongers have been in their element predicting a Dan Carter-inspired feeding to the lions on Saturday.

England may opt for damage limitation; they may find a magical spark from somewhere. They'd be advised to look away now, though, as we trawl the archives for the red rose brigade's most humbling defeats in our latest Scrum Seven.

Australia 76-0 England, Lang Park, 1997

The mother and father of pastings. The lowlight of Clive Woodward's 'Tour from Hell' came first up in Brisbane as a fresh-faced and impressionable England side was lumped from one end of Lang Park to another.

Of the seven debutants on display openside Richard Pool-Jones, scrum-half Scott Benton, wing Dominic Chapman and centre Stuart Potter never played another Test. It remains, and is likely to for some time, England's heaviest ever defeat and a quickly glossed-over chapter of Woodward's eventually wildly successful reign in charge of England. The squad was later handed back-to-back beatings by the All Blacks before being soaked and beaten at Newlands by the Springboks. Not much fun, unless you're Australian. Or a Kiwi. Or South African. Or French, Irish, Scottish or Welsh.

England 0-36 South Africa, Stade de France, 2007

Trumpeted as the pivotal game of Pool A at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, England trooped in to this game with an injury list as long as, er, Jonny Wilkinson's injury list. The talismanic fly-half was out, as was his understudy Olly Barkley after being unceremoniously dropped on his head by the USA's Paul Emerick. Playmaking duties went to Mike Catt for the first time since that game against Wales at Wembley in 1999.

The Springboks meanwhile were beginning to find their feet, with a rumbling pack complemented by the route one Butch James and lighting Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen. Fourie du Preez was at his magisterial best at scrum-half, laying on a length-of-the field try for Pietersen. The Sharks wing bagged a second before the close and flanker Juan Smith also rounded off a flowing effort. There were few signals that this fixture would be repeated in the final.

Ireland 43-13 England, Croke Park, 2007

In terms of weight of history there have been few games like this. The first visit of England to the home of Gaelic sport, Croke Park, was underpinned by political tension due to the memory of a massacre by British troops at the ground during a Gaelic football match on Bloody Sunday in 1920.

A highly charged atmosphere greeted Brian Ashton's England and they were no match for an Ireland side who swept past their opponents on their way to a Triple Crown. David Strettle scored a try on debut for England but it was the smallest of rewards as Irish tries from David Wallace, Isaac Boss, Girvan Dempsey and Shane Horgan proved all too much for the visitors.

Scotland 33-6 England, Murrayfield, 1986

Too many times in recent seasons Scotland have rescued poor Six Nations performances with a win over the Auld enemy at Murrayfield. In 1986 this was most definitely not the case.

A Scotland side featuring the almost unbreakable halfback partnership of Roy Laidlaw and John Rutherford, the superb Finlay Calder and the Hastings brothers put England to the sword at Murrayfield on their way to a tie with France for the Five Nations title.

Rutherford, Scott Hastings and Matthew Duncan scored tries for Scotland, with the ever-reliable Gavin Hastings weighing in with a 21-point haul from the kicking tee. The game remains Scotland's biggest victory over England.

Australia 51-15 England, Lang Park, 2004

The first meeting of the sides since the 2003 Rugby World Cup final went the way of Australia and highlighted the world champions' alarming slide. With Martin Johnson retired from internationals and Jonny Wilkinson on the treatment table, England were no match for the Wallabies, who had begun to blend new faces in to their side.

However, it was an old stager, Joe Roff, who did a good deal of damage with the boot on this occasion. His 21-point haul underpinned an effort that also included a hat-trick of tries to South African-born wing Clyde Rathbone and a brace to hooker Jeremy Paul. This was the Wallabies' first win over England since 1999.

England 6-42 South Africa, Twickenham, 2008

England's heaviest defeat at Twickenham came in a re-run of the 2007 World Cup Final during Martin Johnson's 'winter of discontent'. Their November campaign also contained big losses to Australia and New Zealand, but it was this defeat that cut the deepest.

The Springboks had been run perilously close by Wales and Scotland in the build-up, but managed to turn their promise into points against an England side lacking cohesion and momentum. Danny Cipriani's latest charge down gifted the Boks a big lead inside the opening 20 minutes and they never looked back. Bryan Habana scored the visitors' final try on the stroke of full-time, ending their season on a high and laying the platform for their stunning successes in 2009 against the British & Irish Lions and in the Tri-Nations.

Wales 25-0 England, National Stadium, 1905

Wales enjoyed a period of unparalleled dominance over their fiercest rivals during their first 'golden age' at the turn of the 20th century. Between 1899 and 1909 the sides met on 11 occasions, with England managing only a single draw against 10 losses.

The biggest came in Cardiff in 1905 as Wales powered to a Home Nations clean sweep. The home side scored seven tries to pick up what remains their biggest win over England and the same side pulled off a famous win over the touring All Black 'originals' later in the year.


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