Test match preview: All Blacks vs. England

Laying down the challenge.
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AUCKLAND, NZ: Super Rugby takes a break for the next few weeks folks, because the English have arrived in numbers (historically, they like doing that) and will attempt to end the All Blacks winning streak that dates back to November 2012. Indeed, the English are the last team to beat the All Blacks, although it was at home in Twickenham they will use that as a psychological boost when they step on to Eden Park this Saturday night. Let’s have a look at some historical points between the two sides:

  • The two sides have met 36 times over 109 years. The All Blacks have 28 victories to England’s 7, with one draw back in 1997.
  • The first ever match was in 1905 at the Crystal Palace ground and was won 15-0 by the All Blacks.
  • He did what?!
    He did what?!

    England’s first ever victory was in 1936 by the very large (by the standards of the time) margin of 13-0. This match featured two tries by the legendary English winger Prince Alexander Obolensky, a Russian royal evacuated to England during the 1917 Revolution. His second try was believed to be the first in which a winger changed direction in a test match.

  • England wouldn’t taste success again until their 1973 tour of NZ, which was probably the strangest tour in terms of results ever untaken in this country. The English were supposed to be touring Argentina that year but it was called off due to terrorist threats, so they came here at short notice. They lost their three lead-up games to provincial sides but managed to knock off the All Blacks 16-10 at Eden Park in the only test.
  • Mike Catt won a World Cup, but this is what he'll be forever remembered for.
    Mike Catt won a World Cup, but this is what he’ll be forever remembered for.

    The All Blacks most famous victory over England is undoubtedly the 45-29 hiding dealt out in the 1995 RWC semi final, in which Jonah Lomu scored four tries and announced himself as the greatest superstar the sport will ever know.

  • The first test of the 1997 All Black tour had a couple of noteworthy moments other than being played at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. English hooker Richard Cockerill decided to take it upon himself to swear repeatedly at his opposite, Norm Hewitt during the haka. Unfortunately this did little other than make him look like a jerk as the All Blacks won easily 25-8, however the English team decided to make a controversial ‘lap of honor’ at full time, infuriating NZ fans who felt the practice should be reserved for teams that win. The English attempted to justify it by saying they were simply thanking the fans from the non-traditional city of Manchester for coming to support them.
  • England managed to repeat their 1973 heroics in 2003 when Sir Clive Woodward’s team ground out a 15-13 win on a freezing night in Wellington. This team went on to win the World Cup later in the year.
  • However two years later the All Blacks got their revenge with an epic 23-19 win at Twickenham, which all but sealed a Grand Slam victory (the All Blacks comfortably beat Scotland the next week). This game will be remembered for the three yellow cards dished out to the All Blacks in the second half, however this did not stop a determined side from holding on to a four point lead for the final 15 minutes.
Red card? Shame! - Tana Umaga.
Red card? Shame! – Tana Umaga.

So, a rich history is behind these two sides and I can assure you, no love is lost between them. It is no secret that the All Blacks hate losing to England more than any other team, so expect some sort of ruckus off the ball at some stage. #NZLvENG

All Blacks

The media coverage of the build-up to this game in NZ has mostly focused on the naming of a very strong All Black squad and the new caps that have been named: lock Patrick Tuipolotu, centre Malakai Fekitoa and halfback TJ Perenara.

Malakai Fekitoa and Patrick Tuipolotu.
Malakai Fekitoa and Patrick Tuipolotu.

Patrick Tuipolotu (High School: St Peter’s College, Club: Ponsonby, Province: Auckland, Super Rugby: Blues) has had a strong Super Rugby season, despite being a part of the under-performing Blues team. His set-piece play impressed the selectors mostly, as well as a high work rate around the field. He’s already had a taste of international footy last year when he was a member of the NZ U-20’s side, however this a meteoric rise for the 21 year old, having only played 17 first-class games.

Malakai Fekitoa, (Wesley College, Pakuranga, Auckland, Highlanders) the most talked about Super Rugby player in NZ this season, just keeps getting better and better and his call-up to the All Blacks is about as surprising as the hangovers many All Black fans will be nursing on Sunday morning. Making a name for himself in the Highlanders this season, he’s single-handedly provided around 75% of their highlight reel so far in 2014. At age 22, he slightly pips Tuipolotu in the experience stakes with 36 first class games.

TJ Perenara.
TJ Perenara.

TJ Perenara (Mana College, Northern United, Wellington, Hurricanes) is in a slightly different category to the other two, having been selected to tour with the All Blacks last year under the apprenticeship scheme however not earning a test cap in the process. Seen by many to be the biggest challenge long term to Aaron Smith for halfback in the All Blacks, he is a relative veteran at the Hurricanes, owning the 9 jersey for the past three seasons. He has 47 first class games under his belt.

All three new caps will come off the bench on Saturday night, a common occurrence in modern day All Black teams. The full team is:

Fullback: Israel Dagg (Lindisfarne College, HB Pirates, Hawkes Bay, Crusaders) 38 tests

Right wing: Ben Smith (King’s High School, Green Island, Otago, Highlanders) 27

Left wing: Cory Jane (Heretaunga College, Upper Hutt, Wellington, Hurricanes) 45

Centre: Conrad Smith (Francis Douglas Memorial College, OBU, Wellington, Hurricanes) 75

Second five-eighth: Ma’a Nonu (Rongotai College, Oriental-Rongotai, Wellington, Hurricanes) 88

First five-eighth: Aaron Cruden (Palmerston North Boys High School, College Old Boys, Manawatu, Chiefs) 29

Halfback: Aaron Smith (Feilding High School, Feilding Yellows, Manawatu, Highlanders) 26

Number 8: Jerome Kaino (St Kentigerns College, North Harbour, Blues) 49

Openside flanker: Richie McCaw (Otago Boys High School, Christchurch, Canterbury, Crusaders) 124 (c)

Blindside flanker: Liam Messam (Rotorua Boys High School, Hautapu, Waikato, Chiefs) 29

Lock: Sam Whitelock (Feilding High School, Lincoln University, Canterbury, Crusaders) 51

Lock: Brodie Rettalick (Christchurch Boys High School, Central Hawke’s Bay Rugby and Sports Club, Bay of Plenty, Chiefs) 23

Tighthead prop: Owen Franks (Christchurch Boys High School, Linwood, Canterbury, Crusaders) 54

Hooker: Dane Coles (Wellington College, Poneke, Wellington, Hurricanes) 15

Loosehead prop: Tony Woodcock (Kaipara College, Helensville, North Harbour, Blues) 107


  • Keven Mealamu
  • Wyatt Crockett
  • Charlie Faumuina
  • Patrick Tuipulotu
  • Victor Vito
  • TJ Perenara
  • Beauden Barrett
  • Malakai Fekitoa
Laying down the challenge.
Laying down the challenge.

Expect the All Blacks to come out with a conservative game plan to start, focusing on accuracy at set piece time. Cruden will kick often from first receiver and look to work the ball down the field through his backs. The All Blacks are most dangerous on counter attack, so England shouldn’t feel like they are out of trouble unless they can clear the ball into the stands at least. If they don’t, Dagg, Smith and Jane will have a field day running the ball back. Kaino and Messam will do the bulk of the ball carrying in the forwards, both of their work rates in Super Rugby have been outstanding and they will feature heavily on defense. However, it will be left to McCaw to do the majority of the fetching while at hooker Coles will function effectively as an extra loose forward with a license to roam on the fringes.

Apart from the late withdrawal of Kieran Read, this is the strongest All Black side available and will look to pick up where they left off last year. They are once again in position to challenge the all-time winning streak record, surely this will be their next goal before building towards next year’s RWC defense.

Also of note is the Eden Park factor. The All Blacks have not lost there since 1994 and there will be a big crowd in to see that record continue.


Freddie Burns in unhappier times.
Freddie Burns in unhappier times.

England have named an understrength team due to the unavailability of a number of players still playing in their domestic competition. The most notable selection is that of first five Freddie Burns, who gets the nod over Danny Cipriani. In all, nine top players are missing so calling this an uphill battle for the English is somewhat of an understatement.

Fullback: Mike Brown

Right wing: Marland Yarde

Centre: Manusamoa Tuilagi

Second five: Kyle Eastmond

Left wing: Jonny May

First five: Freddie Burns

Halfback: Danny Care

Number 8: Ben Morgan

Openside flanker: Chris Robshaw (c)

Blindside flanker: James Haskell

Lock: Geoff Parling

Lock: Joe Launchbury

Tighthead prop: David Wilson

Hooker: Rob Webber

Loosehead prop: Joe Marler


  • Matt Mullan
  • Joe Gray
  • Henry Thomas
  • Dave Attwood
  • Tom Johnson
  • Ben Youngs
  • Danny Cipriani
  • Chris Pennell

Key match-ups:

Kyle Eastmond
Kyle Eastmond

Kyle Eastmond vs. Ma’a Nonu: With Billy Twelvetrees succumbing to injury it’s up to Eastmond to contain the veteran All Black second five. Bad news for him is that Nonu is showing ominous Super Rugby form in the last month and seems to play about 10 times better when he pulls a black jersey on.

Mike Brown vs. Israel Dagg: While these two may not actually cross paths in the game itself, the defensive ability of Brown more than matches Dagg’s attacking prowess. Dagg may count himself a little lucky to be back due to some indifferent form this season, so he’ll need a big game to avoid being talked about as the second best fullback on the field.

Owen Franks vs. Joe Marler: While no one wants to see reset scrums all night, these two ogres going against each other should be worth a watch.


The All Blacks starters have 780 caps worth of experience and are playing at their most successful venue of the professional era. The only new caps have had such a good Super Rugby season so far there has been no debate at all about their place in the team. The only question mark so far has been over the favoring of Cruden over Barrett and Colin Slade at first five, however Cruden’s form of late can been linked to an out-of-sorts Chiefs side.

England come in missing nine starters and have been roundly written off by the media and public. This side is a shell of what will face the All Blacks next week and the general feeling is that they will go into this game trying to save face more than anything else. Their main hope is that they can take advantage of possible All Black rustiness and maintain an accurate set piece.

However, the All Blacks will win this game comfortably. They will dominate the contact area, counter attack and tactical flow of the game and take it out by 30 points.

Ma'a Nonu looking less than impressed with Prince Harry. Or William. Or whoever it is
Ma’a Nonu looking less than impressed with meeting Prince Harry. Or William. Or Charles. Or whoever it is.

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@:RugbyWrapUpJunoir Blaber, Nick HallJames HarringtonJamie Wall, Jaime LoydDJ Eberle, Cody KuxmannKaren RitterJake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.

About Jamie Wall 131 Articles
Jamie Wall grew up in Wellington, NZ and enjoyed a stunningly mediocre playing career in which the highlight was a seat on the bench for his club's premier side. He's enjoyed far more success spouting his viewpoints on anything to do with Rugby to anyone that'll care to listen.