- Parling raring to go after six-month England absence
- Lock looks for repeat of Twickenham 2012
An injury-ravaged season means Geoff Parling has not represented England since the 30-22 defeat to New Zealand in November. However, named to start in Saturday’s first Test against the same opponents at Eden Park, the 30 year-old lock is itching to make up for lost time.
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As one of 14 England players to be involved in last year’s successful British and Irish Lions tour to Australia, Parling finds himself Down Under for the second consecutive summer.
Plenty has gone on in between times – not least a shoulder operation that curtailed his domestic campaign with Leicester Tigers – but he is adamant that the prospect of facing the All Blacks on their home turf will be just as tough.
“The Lions seems a long, long, long time ago,” Parling explained. “This is a different challenge – there are not too many sides tour New Zealand and pick up a single win, let alone a series win.
“You can see just being out here that the country’s focus is just rugby, rugby, rugby – you pick up the papers and that’s all that’s going on in the sports pages. When you’re walking around on the street, you’ll get some banter off some of the public to do with it as well. They’re just obsessed with the sport.”
There are some happy memories to fall back on, though. Parling played all 80 minutes of the 38-21 defeat of Steve Hansen’s side in December 2012, contributing prominently in a phenomenal forward effort that New Zealand simply could not live with.
“We got a few things right and the main area that worked was the breakdown,” he said.
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“We got off the line in defence and when you couple that with getting stuck into their breakdown, you get some penalties and slowly build a lead because Faz [Owen Farrell] was kicking well.
“We went in at half-time 15-0 up. They showed their class to get back in the game but our belief helped us finish the job.”
Parling marshalled the lineout that day, taking six of 11 successful throws himself. He will assume the same role again, and, motivated by the hurt of a couple of niggling errors in the autumn, is determined to limit the influence of Kiwi second rows Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.
“It’s a key part of the game,” he finished. “This autumn we had ourselves in a position to beat New Zealand and the lineout didn’t go well in that last 20 minutes. You can’t sugar-coat it – that was one of the main reasons we lost the game.
“If I’m on the pitch, I take responsibility for the lineout – I remember that game very well and it annoys me. In Whitelock and Retallick they have a very good unit with exceptional lineout forwards.”
"They’re switched on and get on with their jobs, but we’ve spoken about having immaculate basics ourselves.”