Dan Cole ready to peak as England stand on brink of equalling record
England strand on the brink of equalling New Zealand's world record for successive victories with the only ever-present during their triumphant run ready to embrace his most productive years.
Dan Cole is the solitary player to have started every instalment of the 17-Test winning sequence that will see the All Blacks' milestone equalled if Scotland are dispatched in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash at Twickenham.
Despite operating exclusively at tighthead, the most punishing of positions, Cole has emerged as England's most durable player.
He has started 22 consecutive Tests and appeared in 75 of the 86 Red Rose internationals staged since he made his debut in 2010, winning a further three British and Irish Lions caps along the way.
Still only 29 years old, the Leicester front row will anchor England's scrum against the Scots believing his best rugby is to come.
"I think the peak years for props are 29, 30, 31, so I don't think I've peaked yet," Cole said.
"You learn all the time. We're constantly being pushed as individuals to get better, whether it's on the field or off the field. With myself, I feel better now than I did a year or two ago.
"Personally I feel better than I've ever done. I can't give you any statistics to back that up, but I'm sure there are some physical stats."
When asked for the secret behind his durability, Cole said: "Doing the bare minimum and not touching the ball!
"No, Eddie Jones has put a big emphasis on a lot of recovery work after every training session and that has definitely helped myself and a lot of other boys.
"As a front rower your spine and hips take a big pounding so we do a lot of work like ice baths, massage, stretching. There is a big focus on that now.
"Throughout rugby there has been a big shift in emphasis on to that and with England that has been more so than any other team I have been involved in."
Cole was unaware on his unique place England's march towards the record books, but recalls that the run was born amid the ruins of the failed home World Cup.
It started with a 60-3 rout of Uruguay in Manchester one week after the hosts had been consigned to a chastening group exit, an event that ushered in the Jones era and a further 16 Test wins.
"It's nice to play for England at any time and to play consecutive games and be a part of this team - you feel good," Cole said.
"That's especially so off the back of what it came from, so you feel good to be involved and to have played through it.
"I think the potential of the squad was there. Eddie then came in with a clear vision of how he wanted to play and stuck at it."
Cole's contribution has earned has earned a rich tribute from England's scrum coach Neal Hatley.
"What Dan does for club and country is phenomenal. There are very few tightheads who bang out games as consistently as he's been doing it a long time. He plays a lot of minutes," Hatley said.
"He's unbelievably dogmatic. He has real faith in his ability and he's tough. He's obviously come through the tough school - Leicester where it was contact three or four times a week.
"He's been one of the top tighthead scrummagers in world rugby for the last seven or eight years."
Meanwhile, England have confirmed that Billy Vunipola will be unleashed upon Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.
Vunipola marked his comeback after three months out with a knee injury by playing 72 minutes of Saracens' Aviva Premiership victory over Newcastle on Sunday, demonstrating his fitness in time for the final two rounds of the Six Nations.