AUCKLAND, NZ – Do you hear that? That rumbling sound. It’s the sound of New Zealanders unhappy with the All Blacks despite them winning, it should really be our national anthem. Or maybe it’s the sound of the 55 English players that are now on NZ soil, now that they have got their squad up to full strength. Which makes this weekend’s test, keeping in mind that last week’s result was supposed to be a walkover for the All Blacks, very interesting indeed. But before we get on to predicting what’s going to happen, let’s take another look back to the games of the past and how they’ve made this rivalry so great.
- The 1925 match in London was famous not only for being the test that secured the All Blacks first ever Grand Slam of the British Isles, but also because it featured the first ever send-off (now called a red card) in international rugby. All Black loose forward Cyril Brownlie was given his marching orders by referee Albert Freethy for apparently kicking one of the English players, though it didn’t stop the visitors going on to win the match 17-11, with one of the tries scored by his brother Maurice. That All Black team returned home from their 32 match tour with a 100% winning record, earning them the name ‘The Invincibles’.
- 1983 saw England gain their third ever victory against the All Blacks with a 15-9 win at Twickenham. They had to wait exactly 10 years to get their next victory, which came at the same ground and had the same scoreline. The 1983 All Blacks are not remembered as a particularly good side, the Stu Wilson-captained team failed to win either of their tests, with the other result being a 25-all draw against Scotland.
- The infamous 1998 English ‘tour from hell’ of the southern hemisphere included a record 0-76 loss to the Wallabies, two test losses to the All Blacks and (in the context of their results) a slight improvement when they were blanked 0-18 by the Springboks. However, there was one bright spot for that hapless English side, the 22 points they scored in the first test in Dunedin remains their highest score against the All Blacks on NZ soil. Unfortunately, the 64 points the All Blacks scored in the same test is their highest score ever against the English.
Their next meeting was in pool play at the 1999 RWC and featured another barnstorming performance by Jonah Lomu. This match is somewhat overlooked by All Black fans due to the team’s ignominious exit from the tournament in the semi-finals to France, but remains one of Lomu’s greatest performances, capped off by this brutally amazing try.
Hope you enjoyed those historical facts and hopefully they enhanced your appreciation of what a good match this is shaping up to be, despite the relatively poor quality of last Saturday’s test. However, it was a close game and has piqued the interest of NZ fans in this series as now the English are seen as a real threat, not just now, but for the World Cup next year. This game will be played under the roof in Dunedin in NZ’s newest and most spectator-friendly ground, Forsyth-Barr Stadium. As usual, there will be plenty of English supporters (they seem to be everywhere), but the Dunedin crowd will give them a run for their money in the volume stakes. #NZLvENG
Plenty of pride-swallowing has taken place by the NZ media this week (myself included) as no one predicted the result in the first test. However, the reaction wasn’t one of knee-jerk selection changes as the rule of thumb is that the All Blacks never have two bad performances in a row (however that theory obviously doesn’t count if it carries over from season to season, as the All Blacks were awful in their last test of 2013 against Ireland, well until the last 2 minutes anyway). It was generally accepted that the team wouldn’t change unless it had to and that is exactly what the selectors have done, with only one injury enforced change seeing Israel Dagg drop out of the squad. Ben Smith moves to fullback for his first start in the position since his test debut and Julian Savea slots in on the empty wing. To be fair, Dagg may have been the only change even if he was fit, his performance last week has drawn plenty of criticism as the back three are the most hotly contested spots in this All Black side.
Work this week will no doubt have been on continuity on attack, the All Blacks were uncharacteristically devoid of any semblance of flair last week aside from Aaron Cruden’s risky tap kick that ultimately led to the match-winning try. Defence wasn’t a problem, England’s best chance came because of the bounce of the ball more than anything else, so work in that area would very much be fine-tuning. The scrum went back and forth last week, so that’s an area that will have been addressed at the expense of a couple of scrum machines.
The All Black team for the second test is:
Fullback: Ben Smith (King’s High School, Green Island, Otago, Highlanders) 28 tests
Right wing: Cory Jane (Heretaunga College, Upper Hutt, Wellington, Hurricanes) 46
Left wing: Julian Savea (Rongotai College, Oriental Rongotai, Wellington, Hurricanes) 20
Centre: Conrad Smith (Francis Douglas Memorial College, OBU, Wellington, Hurricanes) 76
Second five-eighth: Ma’a Nonu (Rongotai College, Oriental-Rongotai, Wellington, Hurricanes) 89
First five-eighth: Aaron Cruden (Palmerston North Boys High School, College Old Boys, Manawatu, Chiefs) 30
Halfback: Aaron Smith (Feilding High School, Feilding Yellows, Manawatu, Highlanders) 27
Number 8: Jerome Kaino (St Kentigerns College, North Harbour, Blues) 50
Openside flanker: Richie McCaw (Otago Boys High School, Christchurch, Canterbury, Crusaders) 125 (c)
Blindside flanker: Liam Messam (Rotorua Boys High School, Hautapu, Waikato, Chiefs) 30
Lock: Sam Whitelock (Feilding High School, Lincoln University, Canterbury, Crusaders) 52
Lock: Brodie Rettalick (Christchurch Boys High School, Central Hawke’s Bay Rugby and Sports Club, Bay of Plenty, Chiefs) 24
Tighthead prop: Owen Franks (Christchurch Boys High School, Linwood, Canterbury, Crusaders) 55
Hooker: Dane Coles (Wellington College, Poneke, Wellington, Hurricanes) 16
Loosehead prop: Tony Woodcock (Kaipara College, Helensville, North Harbour, Blues) 108
- Keven Mealamu
- Wyatt Crockett
- Charlie Faumuina
- Patrick Tuipulotu
- Victor Vito
- TJ Perenara
- Beauden Barrett
- Malakai Fekitoa
If their impressive showing last week has given the English any extra confidence, they haven’t been showing it this week as they usher in their newly available premiership players in low key fashion. They’ve made seven changes, however the most notable positional change is the movement of centre Manu Tuilagi to the right wing to mark Julian Savea. One of the selections that’s had people scratching their heads down here is the dropping of second five Kyle Eastmond, who was one of England’s best last week. He can’t even get a seat on the bench as Billy Twelvetrees takes his place in the number 12 jersey and Luther Burrell fills Tuilagi’s centre spot. The other major change sees Owen Farrell come in to first five.
England’s main concern is the same as that of the All Blacks – an inability to create anything on attack. Not noted for being a flashy team, it’s highly unlikely they’ll go out with the intention of running the ball at all costs, rather manufacturing a couple of crucial scores and backing them up with accurate kicking. Forsyth Barr Stadium has had a history of not being the best venue for goal kickers, indeed in England’s RWC match against Argentina the great Jonny Wilkinson missed five shots at goal as they scrambled to a 13-9 win. Other than that the main area of concern will be discipline for this English team, they were guilty of giving away far too many kickable penalties last week.
The England team for the second test is:
Fullback: Mike Brown
Right wing: Manu Tuilagi
Centre: Luther Burrell
Second five-eighth: Billy Twelvetrees
Left wing: Marland Yarde
First five-eighth: Owen Farrell
Halfback: Danny Care
Number 8: Ben Morgan
Openside flanker: Chris Robshaw (c)
Blindside flanker: Tom Wood
Lock: Geoff Parling
Lock: Joe Launchbury
Tighthead prop: David Wilson Hooker: Rob Webber
Loosehead prop: Joe Marler
- Dylan Hartley
- Matt Mullan
- Kieran Brookes
- Courtney Lawes
- Billy Vunipola
- Ben Youngs
- Freddie Burns
- Chris Ashton
Key Match Ups:
Julian Savea vs. Manu Tuilagi: I’ve already written enough about Savea, which means Tuilagi will have to be right on his game to contain this threat. However, far from being a purely defensive move expect to see England send plenty of ball his way to take advantage of any space Tuilagi might get.
Aaron Cruden vs. Owen Farrell: Cruden had a below average night last week and this has somewhat escaped everyone here thanks to his goal-kicking and tap-kick moment. Farrell comes into this game highly regarded by everyone and will look to push his case to be the successor to Jonny Wilkinson.
Dane Coles vs. Rob Webber: The old adage of rugby being a game for all shapes and sizes is certainly true in this case, Coles being smaller and a bit more nimble than your average international hooker. On the other hand, Webber is what you’d politely term ‘burly’ and is done no favors when his props bind in on him at scrum time causing his gut to fall out the bottom of his jersey.
The key plan for the All Blacks in this second test is to implement accuracy as soon as possible. They will do this through counter-attacking at any opportunity and feeding the ball to Julian Savea, who is the biggest X-factor player on the park. If they can shore up the scrum it will provide a platform to work in Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, however don’t discount the running abilities of Aaron Smith.
England will carry on like they did last week and try and dominate possession, however they must be wary of falling into the same trap so many teams that have played the All Blacks have before and think just holding onto the ball will guarantee them success. It generally has the opposite effect as one small mistake will get punished by the All Blacks before they have time to reset their defensive line.
I think the All Blacks will have been stung from last week and will be taking this test far more seriously. Their systems will click and the addition of Savea will give them a weapon out wide they lacked last week. Add in the fact this is a ground where the All Blacks enjoy throwing the ball around at and it should all amount to a high scoring game. All Blacks by 12.
Oh, one more thing: seems Dan Carter has had enough of globe-trotting and wants to come back and play rugby. Does this mean he’ll turn out for the Crusaders when Super Rugby resumes?
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@:RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Jaime Loyd, DJ Eberle, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.