- England team looks ahead to clash with New Zealand
- Players believe being more clinical is key to victory over All Blacks
New Zealand are unbeaten in 20 Tests and are closing in on the record of 23 matches without a defeat, set by their countrymen between 1987 and 1990. In that run, which includes a world cup victory, the All Blacks have scored more than 30 points on 12 occasions.
If England are to break that streak at Twickenham they are aware that their "defence needs to be good", as Owen Farrell, who will start opposite Kiwi master Dan Carter, says.
“We need to be solid in a lot of areas, they’re a very good attacking team and they get out of their own half very well,” said the understated fly half, who recently turned 21.
Another of England’s new breed, indefatigable lock Joe Launchbury, believes England can compete with New Zealand by building on what they did well in the narrow defeats to Australia and New Zealand and adding poise at crucial times. The 21-year-old said: “We need a bit of composure, we get into the right areas of the pitch and then certain things let us down. It’s a case of carrying on doing what we’ve been doing, but making it that crucial five per cent better.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Added to existing defensive solidity – eight of England’s starting line-up had a 100 per cent tackle success rate against the Springboks – new fly half Freddie Burns knows England must take their chances in New Zealand’s 22.
The Gloucester Rugby No.10, who Stuart Lancaster described as being able to inject special creative talent from the bench, added: “You need to be clinical, there are opportunities out there to be had, it’s just a case of taking them. We’ve had a good week in training and I’m confident we can do that.”
Coming into the final game of a four Test series, England’s training this week has been about quality not quantity, with an added focus on getting the mentality right. There is a sense of demystifying the visitors and ensuring that the times New Zealand have been troubled recently are at the forefront of the mind.
Tight head prop Dan Cole said it is important to make Richie McCaw’s All Blacks “seem a bit more human.”
“It can be a bit daunting when you look at the games they’ve played and how they’ve beaten every one,” said the Leicester Tigers man, who on 33 caps is England’s most experienced starter. “But you need to step back from that, take a look at the tape and look at opportunities to play against them.
“We need to play to our strengths, which is being decent at the set piece and having energy around the field, especially in defence.”
“Any team can be beaten,” added Farrell. “It’s not a case that they’re untouchable, we’re looking forwards to playing against them and putting some pressure on them, like they do to other teams.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images
The added special ingredient of New Zealand is the haka, the war dance which lays down the challenge to all teams they face.
Backs Coach Andy Farrell, a veteran of bruising encounters against the Kiwis as Great Britain Rugby League captain, says the haka is a privilege to be part of.
“It’s what you want to see, the passion that they have is fantastic, it makes the occasion better. I never saw it as a threatening aspect of the game, you’re always in a pretty good place yourself as the haka is coming at you.”
Wing Chris Ashton added: “You try not to pay too much attention to it, they’re doing their bit, you’ve just got to take it in and be in the moment.”
A final word from Farrell Junior, certain to be a key performer should England overcome New Zealand on Saturday. Ever the consummate professional, he’ll relish the atmosphere the haka will create, but will immediately “focus on the job ahead, the rugby.”