All Blacks v England: Rugby heavyweights get ready to rumble in London

2018-11-09 16:15:59

Eddie Jones made quite a scene last weekend.

Within minutes of England squeezing past South Africa 12-11 at Twickenham, Jones clambered up on his soap box, puffed out his chest and talked-up his team's chances of beating the All Blacks.

It was an extraordinary display of bravado. Other coaches might have taken a more humble approach, but not Jones.

His Englishmen were not going to be intimidated by the All Blacks, a team good enough to be named World Rugby's top-ranked team for eight years running, when they meet at 'HQ' on Sunday morning.

Fair enough. If you don't possess self-confidence in test footy, you may as well join the big pie eaters in a president's grade club team.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen could have publicly questioned whether Jones had been overcome by emotion, given England didn't score any tries and were fortunate not to concede a late penalty when Owen Farrell launched a crude tackle in the final play of the game.

Oh, no. Hansen turned the other cheek. In fact he almost welcomed Jones' comments, saying he had every right to install confidence in his side.

But what message will Hansen be issuing to his team behind closed doors? True, no All Blacks coach should have to say too much ahead of a test against England, but if he feels the need to lift the tension another notch he could remind the players that Jones has been yapping and ask: "What are you going to do about it?"

England will take heart from the fact that their last two victories have been against the South Africa, who beat the All Blacks in Wellington and should have done so again in Pretoria. Setting aside the fact that they lost the June series in the Republic 2-1, and finished second last in the Six Nations, England proved they don't lack courage last weekend and the Red Rose supporters at Twickenham will want to once again pay their part.

"There will be 80,000 people there singing songs," Hansen said. "And the only way we can quieten them is by dominating. So at some point they are going to be singing, because we won't dominate for the whole 80 minutes."

The All Blacks will be good enough in the set pieces to claim their own ball, and getting their technique right at the breakdowns - shifting big opponents quickly - will be a must.

Starting Damian McKenzie at fullback to add a counter-attack from the back and share the kicking duties with Beauden Barrett is a bold move in this sort of match. McKenzie is sure to be tested with high kicks, and getting isolated cannot be an option.

Jones has brought Chris Ashton on to the wing in place of Jack Nowell, loosehead prop Ben Moon is rewarded with his first test start and Sam Underhill replaces injured flanker Tom Curry.

England might be conservative and lack the flair of the New Zealanders, but if they build momentum and get the ascendancy through their structured game they could be very difficult to stop. As South Africa discovered, if teams don't take their chances it fuels England's resolve.

It's imperative the All Blacks don't concede cheap penalties and if they are provoked, they must dance a fine line. Under no circumstances can they allow themselves to be bullied, but if they concede cheap penalties there is potential to gift Owen Farrell an easy three points.

"We saw at the weekend how important discipline is," Hansen said. "It could have cost England couldn't have it? So every test match is the same, if you allow yourself to go to places you don't need to or get over-aroused and start getting offside and those sorts of things you just give them easy points.

"England has got good kickers. In games like this - everyone has to earn. You don't want to give them to them."

All Blacks: Damian McKenzie, Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu'inukuafe. Reserves: Dane Coles, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo'unga, Ryan Crotty.

England: Elliot Daly, Chris Ashton, Henry Slade, Ben Te'o, Jonny May, Owen Farrell (cc), Ben Youngs, Mark Wilson, Sam Underhill, Brad Shields, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Dylan Hartley (cc), Ben Moon. Reserves: Jamie George, Alec Hepburn, Harry Williams, Charlie Ewels, Courtney Lawes, Danny Care, George Ford, Jack Nowell.

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