With the Six Nations on and the World Cup just around the corner, we can’t help but feel incredibly excited about the next few weeks and the summer ahead.
They’re the tournaments which create legends. Jonathan Joseph has come on leaps and bounds this tournament and is already being touted as the next Jeremy Guscott. Of course you can say the same about Anthony Watson and Jonny May who are standing out as England try to get their hands on a 27th Six Nations title.
That’s not to mention the Webb Ellis Cup which kicks off on home soil in mid-September.
And they aren’t the only players in the modern era to rise through these tournaments and join England’s elite. We take a look at the Red Rose stars that in recent years have joined the likes of Peter Winterbottom, David Duckham, and Guscott as some of the all-time greats…
Jonny Wilkinson will be forever remembered for one moment. That moment. The moment the ball fell into his hands with only seconds of extra time to go. He’d floated a few wide already, but this time there was no mistake, Jonny Wilkinson had won the World Cup for England for the first time.
It defined his career. He would quickly become one of the best rugby players to ever grace the game and certainly the best kicker of all time, earning celebrity status and even picking up BBC Sports Personality of the Year – the first rugby player ever to do so.
On the pitch he continued to lead his sides, winning the Heineken Cup twice with Toulon as well as a total of four Six Nations titles across his 17 year career.
He called time on his career just last year, and will be working as a TV pundit for the World Cup, no doubt keeping his eyes on George Ford and Danny Cipriani who are following in his footsteps.
Starting life in rugby league, Jason Robinson was one of the quickest fullbacks in the world, earning the nickname Billy Whizz and showing passion and dedication like no other.
His lightning quick feet saw him shuffle past opponents like a dancer, with movement similar to that of a Brazilian footballer rather than a man born and raised in Leeds.
Which made his transition into union a breeze. He took to it like a duck to water, where most others had failed. Joining Sale Sharks in 2000 and quickly becoming one of their all-time best, it took less than a year for him to get his first England call – a call he would go on to receive 51 times including the momentous World Cup win in 2003.
He scored a memorable try in the 2003 Final, and lifted the trophy before coming out of international retirement in 2007 to help take England to their second World Cup Final in as many tournaments. Selection for the Barbarians came next, and after 68 minutes he would call time on his career, bringing the crowd to its feet, like he did so often.
With an OBE and a place in England’s Top five leading try scorers he’s certainly made his mark in the sport, and quite rightly will be remembered as one of the country’s best ever fullbacks.
He may only be part royalty when it comes to the monarchy, but when it comes to rugby Mike Tindall is well in line for the England throne.
The former England captain played 75 times for his country winning the 2003 World Cup and going on to play at the 2011 World Cup. Although, we could certainly have seen more from him.
Plagued by injuries throughout his career, a broken leg saw him sit out the 2007 tournament, whilst The Fridge’s recuperation in 2005 saw him keep his determined, powerful mind in check by taking to the poker table, playing at the British Poker Open.
He’s continued that into his retirement, becoming somewhat of a celebrity featured on the PokerStars Shark Cage show. But of course we remember his powering runs, grit and determination, and penchant for throwing dwarves in nightclubs.
Regarded as one of the greatest locks of all time, Martin Johnson is a true British legend. He’s one of the most recognisable faces in British rugby, making 362 appearances for Leicester Tigers and earning 84 caps for his country.
He captained his club for six years and his country from 1999 during which England were dominant with him becoming only the third man to captain the Red Rose to wins of Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand.
He captained the Lions twice, before leading his nation to Australia in 2003 where he would be inspirational in defeating the home nation to lift the Webb Ellis trophy and put the icing on a cake which includes five Premierships, two Heineken Cups, five Six Nations, and six Triple Crowns.
A regular now on our TV screens, Lawrence Dallaglio’s illustrious career spans an incredible 18 years and he was a leader throughout.
Taking the Wasps captaincy in 1998, the flanker led his team to four Premiership titles (to add to the one he won before taking the captaincy) and two Heineken Cups. By the time he finished in 2008, he was considered one of the true modern greats.
On the international circuit he’d be equally as impressive, winning the Six Nations four times as well as being on the winning World Cup Sevens side in its inaugural year, alongside Matt Dawson and Tim Rodber.
He would take the captaincy from the full side in 1997 by Clive Woodward ahead of Martin Johnson, although resigned two years later. He’d later regain his captaincy following Johnson’s retirement in 2004, although it wasn’t long before Dallaglio followed suit.
He returned to international rugby in 2006 and went on to earn 85 caps for his country, the third highest in history, only behind Jason Leonard and Jonny Wilkinson.