From broken.. to a record — England on brink of history 17 months after reaching their lowest ebb

England will soar to a world-record equalling 18th successive win if they beat Scotland (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)

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For Mike Brown, it began with a “terrible week – one of the worst of my life”.

The inquest into England ’s 2015 World Cup humiliation was under way; the nation’s rugby team already a laughing stock.

As they took to the field to face Uruguay, players wearing the Red Rose wanted only to get the game over with and escape the spotlight.

The very last thought on anyone’s mind, that ­chastening day at Manchester City's ground, was that this was the start of something big.

Really big.

That a meaningless 60-3 victory over a nation few knew even played rugby would be the first step in a run which can reach world record proportions on Saturday.

Joe Launchbury neatly sums up that David vs Goliath game against Uruguay… (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)
…that saw England run the South Americans ragged in a pool stage dead-rubber (Photo: Getty)
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Victory over Scotland would equal New Zealand’s mark of 18 – an unbroken sequence dating back to that hollow first one, which ­preceded the removal of coaching staff and captain.

To the day full-back Brown ­admitted to being ­“depressed, very down and still unable to sleep” a week after the shock elimination had been ­confirmed.

The following morning, England packed their bags as the tournament went on without them.

Stuart ­Lancaster was replaced as boss by Eddie Jones, Chris Robshaw as skipper by Dylan Hartley.

Robshaw lost the captaincy after England's historically bad display at the World Cup (Photo: Reuters)
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England departed as the first host nation ever to fail to advance from the pool stage of a World Cup. But also with a ­determination this had to be, not just the end of their worst rugby nightmare, but also the start of something better.

Fly-half George Ford said then: ­“Experiences like this aren’t nice at the time but, hopefully, we’ll look back on it in four years’ time and think, ‘We learned a hell of a lot there.’”

Brown added: “Individually, we each need to strive to be the best player in the world in our own position, as the New Zealanders are.

Brown (left) was scathingly honest about England's standing after that 2015 tournament (Photo: PA Wire)
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“At the moment, if we’re honest, how many of our ­players would make a World XV or even a Lions XV? A couple perhaps, not many.”

Just 17 months on and many more than a couple of Englishmen are Lions-bound.

A hell of a lot has been learned too.

“We couldn’t just sit around, we had to move on,” Wasps flanker James Haskell said of the players’ ­response to their lowest low. “Imagine me going to my boss Dai Young and saying, ‘Sorry mate, I can’t train today. I’ve got to go have a cry.’

“I’ve been written off more times than some of the ­government’s tax returns. I just keep plodding along.”

England, under Jones, have done rather more than plod along.

England have not been at their best, but still beat France, Wales and (above) Italy (Photo: PA)
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But that guarantees nothing against a Scotland side who come to HQ as title contenders, not merely party poopers.

Jones’ men need to play far better than they have so far in this Six Nations to move alongside the All Blacks team of 2015-16 in the pantheon of rugby greats.

After a week of petty mind games, now comes the ­serious bit.

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