RBS Six Nations

Five key players in England's record-equalling run

Eddie Jones has been lauded for guiding England to a record-equalling 18 consecutive Test wins and he has called upon 49 players to help achieve that goal.

Saturday's match against Ireland offers the chance to secure an outright world record, along with a second Six Nations Grand Slam in a row.

Only three players – Danny Care, Dan Cole and George Ford – have featured in every game along the way.

Here, we take a look at five key players in England's remarkable run.

Owen Farrell 

When England's winning run was still in its infancy – a mere seven games, in fact – Jones took his side to his home country for a test more rigorous than the Six Nations, at which the Red Rose had swept all before them.

With such a stern examination in store across three matches in Australia, Jones needed something special from his team and no individual delivered more emphatically than Farrell.

His 66 points helped England to a first series whitewash on Australian shores and Farrell's continued fine form has seen him rack up 259 points during the streak, in which he has played 17 times.

 

Jonathan Joseph 

Of the 72 tries scored by England, 11 have come from the irrepressible Joseph. The Bath centre's hat-trick in the 61-21 thrashing of Scotland was his second Six Nations treble.

His virtuoso display versus Vern Cotter's side provided a telling response to the fact he was dropped for the previous clash with Italy, against whom he scored three tries in 2016.

Boasting a lethal combination of power, pace and dazzling footwork, Joseph is a formidable force for club and country.

Billy Vunipola

An on-song Vunipola gains metres that win matches. During England's spell of apparent invincibility, in which the imposing number eight has made 12 appearances, Vunipola has undertaken 176 carries, made 575 metres and scored two tries.

Vunipola's impact opens up opportunities for England's finishers – the likes of Joseph – to flourish and gets his side into threatening areas through fewer phases of play.

Having conceded that fitness was once a weakness of his, it is clear Vunipola has addressed that concern and is now setting the standards in his position.

 

Maro Itoje

Itoje was spared the humiliation of England's abysmal 2015 World Cup campaign, having been axed from Stuart Lancaster's initial training squad.

Jones was evidently more keen on the loose forward and has suggested the 22-year-old has the potential to become a world-class player.

It could be argued Itoje is very close to that status now, having established himself as an integral player for England after adopting a more aggressive and menacing approach.

 

Chris Robshaw

Injury denied Robshaw the chance to join his team-mates in finishing what he had helped start, a shoulder issue ruling him out of this year's Six Nations.

It was a cruel blow for a player so central to England's upturn in fortunes. Despite stripping him of the captaincy in favour of Dylan Hartley, Jones never diminished Robshaw's role.

The flanker took more criticism than most following the World Cup embarrassment, but he embodies the incredible revival of an England team whose historic winning run started amid the turmoil of a premature exit from their own tournament, when the armband was still his.