England's forwards will need to maintain the form they discovered in the Six Nations if they want to compete against the All Blacks.
Lock Joe Launchbury says England's forwards will need to maintain the form they discovered in the Six Nations if they want to compete against the All Blacks on Saturday.
Despite the tourists having to field a weakened side in the opening Test in Auckland, Launchbury said the players lining up to face the world champions at Eden Park on Saturday were primed for the challenge, despite being written off by many pundits.
“The way we have played against New Zealand in the last two matches has to give us confidence, but also our more recent games because we really came on during the Six Nations,” said Launchbury.
“After a shaky start we built really well and brought on our attacking game, but the next step now is to continue improving.
“It's the ultimate challenge to come over here and play a three-Test series against New Zealand. We're aware of that and have been training with a slightly different group of players, but we're excited about the weekend.
“It's a really confident group, a young group… everyone's come in and is really excited about the task ahead, not only this game but the games to follow,” added Launchbury, who was just three years-old the last time New Zealand lost at Eden Park. .
“It's been quite a long week to get into Test week but we've trained really well in the last few days.”
The 23-year-old said England could not afford to make any mistakes against the vastly experienced All Blacks at a ground where the home side have not lost a Test since 1994.
He said England's pack needed to recreate their Six Nations form, when they narrowly missed out on the title after recovering from a disappointing start to dominate their rivals and deliver four consecutive wins.
“As a pack of eight it's going to be a big test for us at the weekend,” he said.
“We need to pick up where we left off in the Six Nations – the blend of game we started developing about stressing teams and moving them around the pitch worked really well.
“Hopefully we'll pick up there and continue to improve.”
The last England team to win in New Zealand went on the claim the 2003 World Cup, and Launchbury was reluctant to draw comparisons between the sides ahead of next year's global showpiece.
“2003 were a great side and we're not there, we're still a young team,” he said.
“But we're going in the right direction. We've had some big game over the last 18 months and this is where you want to be – testing yourselves against the best. Hopefully we'll do ourselves justice.”
The England players who took part in last weekend's Premiership decider arrived in Auckland on Wednesday but will not be considered for selection until the second Test in Dunedin on June 14.
Meanwhile, Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees is set to miss out on the opener after failing to recover from an ankle injury he suffered last month.
Bath's Kyle Eastmond is expected to replace him in the number 12 jersey, earning his third cap for England.