The longest unbeaten and winning streaks in men’s Test rugby history

Jared Wright
Split image of All Blacks legend Dan Carter and Richie McCaw with England's Danny Care and Ben Youngs and Springboks' Bobby Stinstad, Joost Van Der Westhuizen and Henry Honiball.

All Blacks legend Dan Carter and Richie McCaw with England's Danny Care and Ben Youngs and Springboks' Bobby Stinstad, Joost Van Der Westhuizen and Henry Honiball.

International rugby is the pinnacle of the game, and while it is highly competitive, several teams have managed extended periods of success, racking up impressive unbeaten runs.

Planet Rugby recaps the longest unbeaten and winning streaks in men’s Test rugby history.

Longest unbeaten runs

24 Tests – Cyprus (Nov 2008 to Nov 2014)

The small island country in the Mediterranean Sea surprisingly tops the charts for the longest unbeaten run in men’s international rugby history.

Even some of the most avid rugby fans are unaware of the record set by the minnow rugby nation.

Their run started in November of 2008 with a win over Azerbaijan, and they would go on to win their next 24 consecutive Test matches before being defeated 39-20 by Latvia in November six years later.

23 Tests – New Zealand (May 1987 to Nov 1990)

The All Blacks kicked off the first-ever Rugby World Cup with a convincing 70–6 victory over Italy in 1987.

That result not only set them on course to win the first global showpiece but also sparked an incredible run of results, which saw them go unbeaten for over three years. Australia finally ended their 23-game unbeaten run in August 1990, having drawn 19-all in the clash between the previous clash between the two sides.

22 Tests – New Zealand (Jun 2013 to Oct 2014)

The men in black feature frequently in the two lists, and between June 2013 and October 2014, they failed to lose a single Test match. This 22-match unbeaten streak started with a victory over France, but the Springboks eventually handed the Steve Hansen-led side a defeat, securing a 27-25 win thanks to a late penalty from Patrick Lambie at Ellis Park.

20 Tests – New Zealand (Sep 2011 to Dec 2012)

Much like the 1987 All Blacks, the 2011 New Zealand side led by Graham Henry kicked their World Cup off with a convincing victory, this time defeating Tonga 41-10.

They would go to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup later that year, and Hansen would continue that unbeaten run when he took charge of the side.

Though the All Blacks would draw 18-18 all with Australia during Hansen’s first year in charge, he would only taste defeat in December when they fell to a 38-21 defeat to England.

18 Tests – New Zealand (Aug 2015 to Nov 2016)

The 2015 All Blacks thrashed Australia 41-13 to secure the Bledisloe Cup for the 13th year in a row. That victory kick-started their winning run of 18 Test matches as they gave legends Richie McCaw and Dan Carter the perfect send-off a few months later when they won their third World Cup title.

However, after 18 straight wins, New Zealand were finally defeated, and in historic fashion as Ireland claimed their first-ever victory over the All Blacks, securing a 40-29 win in Chicago.

18 Tests – England (Oct 2015 to Mar 2017)

England’s run of 18 games without a defeat started while the side were in one of their lowest-ever moments. With their elimination in the group stages of their home World Cup already confirmed, the Red Rose comprehensively defeated Uruguay 60-3 in their final pool stage match.

Eddie Jones would replace Stuart Lancaster and led England to a Six Nations Grand Slam in his debut tournament. Jones’ side would not taste defeat once in his first year in charge, with Ireland again ending the winning run by claiming a 13-9 win.

17 Tests – New Zealand (Jul 1961 to Aug 1964)

As mentioned above, the All Blacks feature regularly on this list and back in the 1960s, they went on a 17-game unbeaten run between 1961 and 1964.

There were draws against Australia and Scotland over this period before the Wallabies handed them a 20-5 defeat in 1964.

17 Tests – New Zealand (Sep 1965 to May 1970)

The All Blacks started their next lengthy winning run with a streak starting and ending with matches against South Africa.

This time, New Zealand would go unbeaten for over four years, but the Springboks would end that run of victories in 1970, claiming a 17-6 win.

17 Tests – South Africa (Aug 1997 to Dec 1998)

During Nick Mallett’s tenure as Springboks head coach, South Africa went on a run of 17 straight Test victories after losing the British and Irish Lions series in 1997.

Gary Teichmann famously captained the side in all 17 matches, which included back-to-back wins over New Zealand and Australia, but was surprisingly omitted from the Bok squad a year later.

The run started with a 61-22 thrashing of Australia and ended with a 13-7 defeat at the hands of England.

17 Tests – Lithuania (Oct 2006 to May 2010)

Rounding out the top ten is Lithuania, who also won 17 Test matches in succession, achieving the feat between October 2006 and May 2010. It was Ukraine who ended their run with a 27-16 win.

17 Tests – Ireland (July 2022 to October 2023)

Ireland defeated Scotland 36-14 in their last Rugby World Cup pool match in 2023, which was their 17th straight win since defeating the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time in July 2022.

Andy Farrell’s side’s run came to an end against New Zealand in the tournament’s quarter-final – the All Blacks securing a narrow 28-24 victory.

Most consecutive wins

24 Tests – Cyprus (Nov 2008 to Nov 2014)

As mentioned above, few will guess that Cyprus hold the record for the longest unbeaten rugby and the most consecutive wins.

18 Tests – New Zealand (Aug 2015 to Nov 2016)

The All Blacks share the record for the most consecutive Test victories by a tier-one men’s international, with the run including their journey to back-to-back World Cup titles before a crushing defeat in Chicago.

18 Tests – England (Oct 2015 to Mar 2017)

Jones made an immediate impact when he arrived in England, winning his first five games in a row and claiming back-to-back Six Nations titles despite Ireland denying them a Grand Slam and the opportunity to become the first men’s tier-one side to win 19 Tests in a row.

17 Tests – New Zealand (Sep 1965 to May 1970)

Sir Fred Allen coached the All Blacks on 14 occasions during this period, failing to lose a game while in charge, with Ivan Vodanovich taking over in 1969 with the run coming to an end under his watch.

17 Tests – South Africa (Aug 1997 to Dec 1998)

The Springboks’ longest-ever win record. During this time, Mallett’s charges managed to score 50+ points on five occasions and walloped Wales 96-13. They also beat France, Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland on more than one occasion.

17 Tests – New Zealand (Jun 2013 to Oct 2014)

After their defeat to England in 2012, Hansen’s All Blacks regrouped and would not defeated again for over a year until the Springboks claimed a narrow 27-25 win in Johannesburg.

17 Tests – Lithuania (Oct 2006 to May 2010)

The small European features on the list thanks to that previously mentioned run of 17 straight wins over more than three years.

17 Tests – Ireland (July 2022 to Oct 2023)

Ireland became just the fifth tier-one nation to win 17 consecutive Test matches when they thumped Scotland 36-14 in their final Rugby World Cup Pool B match in 2023. Their run of victories began with their first over victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand, securing a 23-12 win just a week after losing 42-19. They have since gone on to record wins over South Africa (twice), Fiji, and Australia and claimed a Six Nations Grand Slam before the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

16 Tests – New Zealand (Sep 2011 to Oct 2012)

This is the same run of results included in the All Blacks 20-game streak without a defeat. However, during that run, New Zealand did draw their 16th match. All Blacks legend Dan Carter did attempt a late drop goal to seal a 17th victory, but his attempt was not successful as the Blesidloe Cup clash with the Wallabies ended 16-all.

15 Tests – South Africa (Oct 1994 to Jul 1996)

Ahead of their first Rugby World Cup in 1995, which they hosted, South Africa drew 18, all with the All Blacks in 1994.

That would be the last time that the Springboks would lose a match as they went on to beat Argentina (twice), Scotland, and Wales in 1994, and the following year, the likes of Australia, France and New Zealand as they won the Rugby World Cup for the first time.

However, their winning run would come to an end in 1996 when they fell to a 21-16 defeat to Australia.

15 Tests – New Zealand (Aug 2005 to Aug 2006)

The All Blacks were in fine form ahead of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, going on a five-match winning streak between August 2005 and August 2006.

The run started with a 30-13 victory over Australia. However, the Springboks would end that run with a 21-20 win in 2006 in Rustenburg.

15 Tests – New Zealand (Sep 2009 to Oct 2010)

After suffering their third defeat to South Africa in 2009, New Zealand turned things around, thumping the Wallabies 33-6 in Wellington.

The Wallabies would get revenge just over a year later when they secured a narrow 26-24 win in October 2010.

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