THEY come from worlds as different as a Tooting housing estate, a Cornish fishing port and the sun-kissed Pacific Islands.
England’s rugby team, who face South Africa in the World Cup final on Saturday, have never had such a diverse squad.
A sport so long associated with silver-spooned public schoolboys in our country now has players who mirror the multi-ethnic nation they represent.
The 31-man squad includes prop Kyle Sinckler, who turned to rugby as his peers joined gangs, and Jack Nowell, who was destined to follow in his dad’s footsteps as a fisherman.
The players are led by inspirational coach Eddie Jones, who was born in Tasmania to an Australian father and Japanese-American mother who was interned during World War Two.
Rugby was his path to acceptance in Australian society.
The 59-year-old boss says: “I was half-Asian, or half-Chinese as you were known back then.
“Most Australians didn’t know what Japanese was. When I go to Japan, I’m half-Australian. In England, I’m a foreigner.”
The coach has taken players from a variety of backgrounds and forged them into a winning machine.
Former international James Haskell remembers the squad’s first meeting with Jones four years ago, where he told the team: “We are going to aim to be world No1 and win the World Cup and in doing so you have a chance to change your lives and your families’ lives for ever.”
Ex-player Ugo Monye said of the current squad: “More than a third of the players are from BAME backgrounds. There are so many different cultures but they are all united by the purpose of representing England.
“It is a true reflection of modern society, and what pleases me most is how it has come about naturally.
“There has not been any box-ticking or anything like that. This is Eddie’s best 31 on merit.”
Here, we give the low-down on some the stars hoping to lift the World Cup on Saturday.
BREAKTHROUGH star prop Kyle’s early life in Tooting, South London, was a world away from the brogues, Barbour jackets and picnic hampers of Twickenham.
Brought up on an estate by his single mum Donna, who works 12-hour shifts in a police call centre, 26-year-old Kyle went to a state school that did not even play rugby – so when he was 13 he begged a teacher to start a team.
As many of his peers joined local gangs, he found an escape in the sport.
He said: “I want to set a good example and show what being a man is.”
A TALENTED pole vaulter at his state school on the outskirts of Swindon, flying winger Jonny, 29, says his parents have been “helluva role models for me”.
He said: “My mum got kicked out at 16 because her mum was an alcoholic and her dad was a gambler. She went to night school while working in a bakery, got a degree, went on to do a Masters. She’s an occupational therapist.”
His dad had to support himself through A-levels but still got three As in the sciences. He then went to Edinburgh University and qualified as a vet.
WITH an eye for art, a degree in politics, and his own clothing brand, 6ft 5in Maro is fast becoming English rugby’s pin-up.
The 25-year-old, whose parents are Nigerian British, grew up in Edgware, North London, and went to Harrow public school on a sports scholarship.
Maro, a Tatler magazine cover star, said of the team: “Our diversity in terms of how we think and go about our business, as well as in terms of genetic make-up, sets an example. No man is an island and you have to do things together, and dividing people never works.”
SWATHED in tattoos, the 26-year-old hails from the fishing port of Newlyn in Cornwall where his dad is a trawlerman.
His father would be away at sea for eight-day stints and Jack believed he would follow his father into the business.
He says of Newlyn: “Coming back, I have to pinch myself sometimes.
“For me, playing for England was always one of my dreams growing up as a kid. I know that this is the place that got me there.”
GOLDEN-booted skipper Owen, 28, was born in Billinge, near Wigan, where dad Andy played rugby league.
He first sharpened his skills at Wigan St Patricks amateur rugby league club amid the cobbled streets of one of the area’s most deprived neighbourhoods.
Owen celebrates his kicks by locking his fingers together to form the letters JJ. The gesture is in support of 11-year-old Jack Johnson, a close family friend, who suffers from a fatal muscle-wasting disease.
THE 6ft 7in Northampton Saints forward was born in Hackney, East London, to mum Val, a prison officer, and dad Linford, who used to be a pub doorman, from Jamaica.
When he was four, the family moved back to Val’s native East Midlands.
In 2015, 30-year-old Courtney said of the England team’s diverse racial make-up: “The more acceptance there is, the more black or mixed-race people will try new sports.”
MOHICANED prop Joe, 29, might still be working in his uncle’s turfing business if rugby had not intervened.
Born in Eastbourne, East Sussex, he was a football goalkeeper as a child “because I was the fattest kid in the class and we had five-a-side goals . . . when I stood in them I’d fill them”.
Joe is the only son of mental health nurses Paul and Georgina.
Paul played rugby for Hellingly in East Sussex and as a youngster Joe would watch from the clubhouse.
A 6ft 1in, 17st wrecking ball, 28-year-old Manu was born 10,000 miles away in Samoa, where his dad Namulauulu Tuilagi Vavae Leo II is the high chief of the village council.
At 13, Manu joined his rugby-playing brothers in the UK, barely speaking English, and was eventually selected for England Under-16s under the three-year residency rule.
But when the Home Office discovered he had originally come to England on a six-month tourist visa, he was faced with deportation.
Only a campaign by his club Leicester Tigers, fans and MPs persuaded the Home Office to allow him to stay on the grounds of family ties.
LIGHTNING-quick Anthony, 25, who once ran the 100 metres in 10.4 seconds, grew up near Weybridge, Surrey, and is the second of three sons who all play rugby.
His father Duncan runs his own petrochemical company and met his Nigerian mum Vivian while working in the African country.
A talented footballer, Anthony was once on AFC Wimbledon’s books and had a trial with Chelsea when he was 13.
Mako & Billy Vunipola
THE battering ram brothers of Tongan heritage were born in Australia and New Zealand respectively but brought up in the Welsh Valleys after international rugby-playing dad Fe’ao signed for Pontypool.
Their mum Singa is a Methodist minister in High Wycombe, Bucks.
Mako, 28, won a scholarship to Millfield independent school, and Billy, 26, won one to the equally posh and sporty Harrow.
Billy says: “We wouldn’t be confident going on to the pitch having not said a quiet prayer to ourselves. We are not asking for a win when we pray, just an opportunity to show what we can do.”
- Picture research: Amy Reading