Five of the best: winning streaks
After Saracens emphatically ended Toulon's home winning streak in European competitions today, Sports Gazette takes a look at five notable winning streaks in rugby history.
As first weekend European rugby match-ups go, the mouth-watering clash between Toulon and reigning champion Saracens today was about as good as it gets.
After a bruising encounter at Stade Mayol, Saracens ran out worthy winners and in the process brought an end to Toulon's unbeaten record at home in European competitions - a streak that had spanned 20 games.
With that in mind, we take a look at five other notable winning streaks in rugby union history.
1. New Zealand: Unbeaten in 23 tests between 1987 and 1990.
It will presumably come as no surprise to readers to hear that New Zealand own the longest unbeaten streak in international rugby history among top tier teams.
Although still an amateur team back in 1987, the All Blacks had assembled one of the most feared line-ups the game has seen and went on a terrific run that included their remarkable 1987 World Cup campaign - 298 points and 43 tries in just six games.
A 19-19 draw with Australia in 1988 was the only blemish during this run, and it would be the Wallabies that eventually downed the All Blacks, winning a wild third test in the Bledisloe Cup 21-9.
2. South Africa/New Zealand: 17 consecutive test victories
If you like your streaks to be perfect - that is, with nary a draw - then this is the category for you. South Africa achieved their 17 in a row between 1997 and 1998 in an impressive run that included an unbeaten tour of Europe and a perfect Tri-Nations campaign.
New Zealand were the first team to win 17 straight victories and were record holders for a considerable period of time, having set that record back in the 1960s when they produced a spectacular unbeaten tour of Great Britain, France and Canada in order to make their mark as one of the most exciting teams we have ever seen.
With their thumping of South Africa in the final round of the Rugby Championship last week, this current iteration of the All Blacks became the latest team to win 17 straight. They take on Australia in Auckland next weekend for what will undoubtedly be an unmissable chance to set the record outright.
Since a World Cup warm-up loss to the Wallabies in August last year, the All Blacks have been untouchable despite losing several high-profile players to retirement. They remain an absolute treat to watch.
3. New Zealand: 44 home victories in succession
This article is becoming unapologetically All Black-centric but such is the nature of international rugby. Although New Zealand's terrific 17 game winning streak is impressive, it would struggle to hold a candle to their recent record at home.
The word 'recent' must be taken with a pinch of salt considering the All Blacks haven't lost a home test in over seven years.
When New Zealand last lost on Kiwi soil - a 32-29 loss to the Springboks in Hamilton - 'I Gotta Feeling' by the Black Eyed Peas was topping the music charts and 'The Hangover' was a major box office success.
The 44 straight victories include 10 against Australia and a whopping 15 victories at Eden Park where, incidentally, the All Blacks haven't lost a game since July 3rd, 1994. In July 1994, 'I Swear' by All-4-One was topping the UK Charts, Forrest Gump was released to critical acclaim and the author of this article was yet to be born. Oh, and the aforementioned contest against Australia for the record next weekend? It takes place at Eden Park.
4. England: Unbeaten under Eddie Jones
Since taking charge of the team following a disappointing World Cup campaign this time last year, Eddie Jones has masterminded a remarkable run of form for England, as they followed up a grand slam Six Nations campaign with a stunning 3-0 whitewash of the Wallabies down under.
Including their victory over Uruguay in the final World Cup match, England have now won 10 games in a row and continue to inch towards their own consecutive victory record of 14 set under Sir Clive Woodward during their remarkable 2002/ 2003 seasons.
Upcoming matches against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina promise to be stern tests for Eddie Jones side. Making the dangerous assumption that they are able to safely navigate those three tests, we would be set up for an epic record-equalling showdown at Twickenham on December 3rd when England will play host to Australia. If recent history is any indication, it should be an absolute cracker.
5. Maro Itoje: 30 consecutive wins for club and country
At 21 years old, Maro Itoje has composed the kind of rugby CV that would embarrass a 15-year veteran of the sport, with two Aviva Premiership titles, a Champions Cup, a Grand Slam and a Wallaby whitewash all achieved in his young career.
Playing for a dominant side like Saracens, it is not hard to see how Itoje could have become accustomed to winning, but his remarkable run of victories in games started is simply unprecedented.
Harlequins brought Itoje's wonderful run of form to an end last month as Saracens suffered their first defeat of the season, but today's monumentous victory over Toulon allows him to start another streak that England fans will be hoping is a good omen for the upcoming internationals. The young prodigy remains one of the brightest talents in world rugby, and his 30-game winning streak is going to take some beating.