AUCKLAND, NZ – Usually third tests in a series, in which one team is up 2-0, are pretty dull affairs that see a few bench players maybe getting a run as reward for their hard work at training. But there’s something about this All Blacks vs England series that’s got the public here more interested than usual in a June series whitewash. This is because England, despite losing the first two tests, have shown the makings of a team that’ll be a formidable force in the future. When I say future, of course I’m talking about next year’s Rugby World Cup, which will be played in…England. Before we crack into the preview of the last test, England did have another match on the tour, a midweek fixture against the Crusaders. Midweek games used to be a staple part of any tour so it was nice to have a bit of a throwback to easier times. England’s wider squad did a real number on NZ’s top Super Rugby team at the moment, handing them a 38-7 hiding. However, it must be taken into account that no All Blacks were in the Crusaders team.
Here’s the final installment of historical facts about the All Blacks playing England over the years:
Before Jonah Lomu came along, the first meeting these two sides had at a World Cup was in 1991 at Twickenham. The All Blacks won a tight game by 18-12, the only try scored by legendary All Black flanker Michael Jones. That try gave Jones the honor of being the first player to score a try at both the 1987 and 1991 RWCs (although it should be noted that the first try at the 1987 RWC was in fact a penalty try).
- The captain of the 1973 England team that toured NZ and beat the All Blacks was John Pullin, who was also notable for being the first English captain to record victories over the Springboks and Wallabies as well. Just to show off, he also was in the Barbarians side that famously beat the All Blacks in the same year. He even played a part in Gareth Edwards fabled try that started from back in the Baabaa’s own 22 and went through about 11 pairs of hands.
During England’s 1985 tour, their party included fullback Jamie Salmon. In a move that would be impossible nowadays, Salmon had played seven times previously for the All Blacks after he came to Wellington to further his career. Unfortunately, his English team didn’t have much fun when they played in Wellington, losing 42-15. Salmon went on to play 12 times for his home country and isn’t quite alone in NZ/England representatives, a young lock named Martin Johnson came out to play for King Country in the early ’90’s. He eventually made it into the NZ Under-21’s team but is of course more well known for captaining England to their 2003 RWC triumph.
The third test will be played at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, which holds the dubious distinction of being the last ground on NZ soil the All Blacks lost on, suffering a 32-29 defeat to the Springboks back in 2009. This was thanks to the prodigious boot of one Frans Steyn, whose form we’ve all been following in this year’s Super Rugby competition. Despite the All Blacks losing there on that occasion, Waikato Stadium was host to one of the most complete All Black performances in recent times, a 60-0 demolition of Ireland in 2012. It’s a great ground to watch from and has a fantastic atmosphere when full, which it will be on Saturday night.
The big news of the week in the All Black camp is the withdrawal of veteran centre Conrad Smith due to a broken thumb that may keep him out of the rest of Super Rugby as well. Steve Hansen has replaced him with rookie Malakai Fekitoa, whose Super Rugby form has been outstanding this year but has barely had any time to do anything in brief appearance off the bench in this series for the All Blacks. The other major change sees the return of hugely influential number 8 Kieran Read from a concussion-induced layoff. Because of this Jerome Kaino moves to blindside flanker and Liam Messam drops to the bench. Aaron Cruden keeps his spot at first five, which has raised eyebrows here as many saw him drop behind Beauden Barrett in the depth chart due to some shaky moments in the last two tests. However, he’s done enough to convince the selectors that he deserves another shot before the inevitable return of Dan Carter. Of note is that captain Richie McCaw will be playing his 128th match for the All Blacks, tying Sean Fitzpatrick’s career total and making himself second only to Colin Meads as the most capped All Black of all time.
The full All Black team for the third test is:
Fullback: Ben Smith (King’s High School, Green Island, Otago, Highlanders) 29 tests
Right wing: Cory Jane (Heretaunga College, Upper Hutt, Wellington, Hurricanes) 47
Left wing: Julian Savea (Rongotai College, Oriental Rongotai, Wellington, Hurricanes) 21
Centre: Malakai Fekitoa (Wesley College, Pakuranga, Auckland, Highlanders) 1
Second five-eighth: Ma’a Nonu (Rongotai College, Oriental-Rongotai, Wellington, Hurricanes) 90
First five-eighth: Aaron Cruden (Palmerston North Boys High School, College Old Boys, Manawatu, Chiefs) 31
Halfback: Aaron Smith (Feilding High School, Feilding Yellows, Manawatu, Highlanders) 28
Number 8: Kieran Read (Rosehill College, Canterbury, Crusaders) 61
Openside flanker: Richie McCaw (Otago Boys High School, Christchurch, Canterbury, Crusaders) 126 (c)
Blindside flanker: Jerome Kaino (St Kentigerns College, North Harbour, Blues) 51
Lock: Sam Whitelock (Feilding High School, Lincoln University, Canterbury, Crusaders) 53
Lock: Brodie Rettalick (Christchurch Boys High School, Central Hawke’s Bay Rugby and Sports Club, Bay of Plenty, Chiefs) 25
Tighthead prop: Owen Franks (Christchurch Boys High School, Linwood, Canterbury, Crusaders) 56
Hooker: Dane Coles (Wellington College, Poneke, Wellington, Hurricanes) 17
Loosehead prop: Tony Woodcock (Kaipara College, Helensville, North Harbour, Blues) 109
- Keven Mealamu
- Wyatt Crockett
- Charlie Faumuina
- Patrick Tuipulotu
- Liam Messam
- TJ Perenara
- Beauden Barrett
- Malakai Fekitoa
While it’s very much a case of ‘steady as she goes’ from the All Blacks, Stuart Lancaster has again made several changes to his side. In the halves his hand has been forced with Ben Youngs and Freddie Burns replacing injured pair Danny Care and Owen Farrell at halfback and first five respectively. Centre Kyle Eastmond (who was one of England’s best in the first test) comes in for Billy Twelvetrees, where he’s joined by Manu Tuilagi. Tuilagi’s time on the wing has obviously been put down as a misjudgment by Lancaster, who has filled his spot with the prat-falling Chris Ashton. Up front there are three changes with NZ-born Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola taking over at hooker, lock and number eight. NZ fans have been looking forward to seeing Vunipola in action after his one-man wrecking-ball act against the All Blacks at Twickenham last year.
The full England team for the third test is:
Fullback: Mike Brown
Right wing: Chris Ashton
Centre: Manu Tuilagi
Second five eighth: Kyle Eastmond
Left wing: Marland Yarde
First five eighth: Freddie Burns
Hafback: Ben Youngs
Number 8: Billy Vunipola
Openside flanker: Chris Robshaw (capt)
Blindside flanker: Tom Wood
Lock: Geoff Parling
Lock: Courtney Lawes
Tighthead prop: David Wilson
Hooker: Dylan Hartley
Loosehead prop: Joe Marler
- Rob Webber
- Matt Mullan
- Kieran Brookes
- Joe Launchbury
- Ben Morgan
- Lee Dickson
- Danny Cipriani
- Luther Burrell
As I said earlier, this game probably won’t be the damp squib effort from the tourists that we’ve seen from June tours over the past couple of years. Last year the French got drubbed 30-0 in Christchurch and the Irish were hammered the year before that. You get the feeling England really have a point to prove on this tour and, while it might not have been to topple the All Blacks, at least give them something to think about before the end of year tour.
England will look to replicate the opening 20 minutes in the second test, which saw them shoot out to a 10 point lead and score a very well-constructed try. If they can do that it’s essentially a mental game from then on to keep up their intensity because only that sort of effort will get them across the line. Their set piece has been solid and the accuracy around the park last week had improved about 50% from the first test. Their key goal will not to let the All Blacks recycle the ball as fast as they did in the second half of last week, which led to two quick tries and effectively determined the outcome.
The All Blacks could only play for five minutes in the first test, then 40 last week, so does that mean they’ll put in their 80 minute performance this weekend? Time will tell but the return of Read will certainly help that hypothesis, his presence on the park is worth about 10 points by itself. Cruden will benefit playing on his home turf and the forwards will give him enough good ball to get his running game going. He may look to kick to the right wing corner to expose the under-done Ashton, however he will have his hands full containing a rampant Julian Savea anyway. Expect the All Blacks to move the ball wide early and quickly to utilize their main threat.
Key match ups
Cory Jane vs. Marland Yarde: Jane was pretty awful last weekend while Yarde scored the opening try and had a useful game (although he did get treated like a speed bump by Julian Savea in one memorable incident). Jane is known for coming back with strong performances after his place in the team has been questioned.
Sam Whitelock vs. Courtney Lawes: The big English bruiser takes on the All Blacks most hard-working forward of the past few seasons. Lawes is seen as a player who has been hyped up quite a bit around here, so it will be interesting to see how he goes in his starting opportunity.
Aaron Smith vs. Ben Youngs: A rare misfire from Smith last week left many scratching their heads as to where his good Super Rugby form has gone. He’ll be up against Youngs, who had a solid outing in Auckland and gets another chance here thanks to an injury to Danny Care.
While my prediction ended up being a bit off last week, the score of that test wasn’t indicative of the 14 point advantage that the All Blacks enjoyed up until the final 10 minutes. I think both sides will have improved, but the All Blacks just have the better team across the park. A lot of how this test will go depends on Cruden, I reckon he’ll show up and give a classy performance. This tour has been an eye-opener as to where the English are at in terms of their preparation for next year’s RWC, while they won’t win on Saturday they’ll still add themselves as a team that the All Blacks will need to be at their very best against if they are to defend their title. All Blacks by 10.
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