Planet Rugby

Preview: England v New Zealand

29th November 2012 17:14

Share:

dan carter england new zealand twickenham

Back at Twickenham: Dan Carter

England will conclude a frustrating November at Twickenham when they face world champions New Zealand on Saturday.

With a comfortable win as expected under their belts against Fiji, England went into their matches against Australia and South Africa with a sense of optimism and quiet confidence.

Instead, they have emerged a fortnight later aware of their deficiencies and with their captain under pressure following a series of costly calls at key moments against the Wallabies and Springboks. Many felt before November that England were on their way up. The last three weeks have proven that there is still plenty for them to learn.

Who better to provide a rugby masterclass than New Zealand? Unbeaten in 2012 with 12 wins and one draw against Australia, they are playing at an astonishing level even by their own imperious standards.

Young blood in Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano and Julian Savea have eased into the starting XV without any concern, assuring that this All Blacks side did not peak when they finally recaptured the Rugby World Cup last October. If anything they have improved; stronger, faster and more clinical than that trophy-winning side.

England however are not without their own talents. Chris Robshaw's decision-making in recent weeks may be under the spotlight but his dedication and work-rate cannot be questioned. Alex Goode has shown that he can keep defences guessing, whilst Manu Tuilagi remains a struggle to contain.

Alex Corbisiero's return against South Africa highlighted that he is England's most prolific loosehead, although the interpretation of the scrums left something to be desired. Joe Launchbury has taken to Test rugby well and will no doubt fulfil a childhood dream of facing New Zealand when he runs out on Saturday.

Too much about England however remains uncertain. Does Brad Barritt do enough going forward? Can Tom Youngs rediscover the accuracy at the line-out that he had against Australia but eluded him against South Africa? Players who previously have enjoyed great highs for England - Chris Ashton in particular - appear far from their devastating best, their confidence misplaced.

That is something you cannot say about the All Blacks. Confidence has never been an issue and when you have 788 caps in your squad - it shouldn't be. Dan Carter (93) and Richie McCaw (115) have more than England's whole side put together (206).

The incident with Andrew Hore against Wales though has left New Zealand embarrassed according to Steve Hansen. On Saturday they will look to emphasise once again that they are the greatest rugby side on the planet, not a team that wins by thuggery.

When you possess the greatest skill set, set-piece, squad and attacking threats as New Zealand do, the game is relatively simple. For every injury to Carter, you have Aaron Cruden. For every suspension for Hore, you have Keven Mealamu.

Whatever your allegiance, there is no denying the superiority of this All Blacks side - after all, they have beaten every other side they've come across in 2012. A time will come when New Zealand are no longer the world's best and this vintage crop will be looked back on. Best to savour it while it lasts.

Ones to watch:

For England: After his surprise nomination for the IRB Player of the Year earlier this week, all eyes will be on fly-half Owen Farrell. The Saracen returns to the starting line-up in place of the injured Toby Flood and kicked well against South Africa, but questions remain over whether he can spark England's backline into life. Elsewhere, Manu Tuilagi has to shine in these sorts of clashes with New Zealand if he is truly to be considered as a world-class talent. Still only 21, England need him to perform.

For New Zealand: Two of New Zealand's greats are not getting any younger, so any time Dan Carter and Richie McCaw run out at Twickenham it is a moment to savour. Both are included on the IRB shortlist along with Farrell and this will be McCaw's final Test before he takes a sabbatical in 2013. With the thought of a deserved rest around the corner, McCaw will not want to be out fishing with the lingering thought of a loss to England on his mind. Carter, meanwhile, has bounced back from the disappointment of missing the Rugby World Cup final with an outstanding year and should control this one from start to finish.

Head-to-head: With caps littered across both sides, it's two players with the fewest that will face-off in an intriguing duel on Saturday. Joe Launchbury initially impressed off the bench against Australia and made his first start last week against the Springboks, holding his own in the contact area and showing off his athleticism. Brodie Retallick meanwhile has been fighting it out with Luke Romano to be the heir to Brad Thorn's throne - bringing intense physicality to the table and proving to be a reliable operator at the set-piece.

Recent results:

2010: New Zealand won 26-16 at Twickenham
2009: New Zealand won 19-6 at Twickenham
2008: New Zealand won 32-6 at Twickenham
2008: New Zealand won 44-12 in Christchurch
2008: New Zealand won 37-20 in Auckland
2006: New Zealand won 41-20 at Twickenham
2005: New Zealand won 23-19 at Twickenham
2004: New Zealand won 36-12 in Auckland
2004: New Zealand won 36-3 in Dunedin
2003: England won 15-13 in Wellington
2002: England won 31-28 at Twickenham

Prediction: It might be the end of a long year for New Zealand, but that is irrelevant. They will want to end 2012 unbeaten and in some style at one of the stadiums in world rugby where winning means everything. England's best chance is to remain in the match for as long as possible, meaning an ironclad defence and plenty of possession - two factors they had against South Africa but failed to capitalise on. Rather than an upset, this should be another lesson in England's education, and a fitting end to a great season for New Zealand. All Blacks by 15.

The teams:

England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Courtney Lawes 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Jonathan Joseph.

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumunia, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ben Smith.

Date: Saturday, 1 December
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)

by Ben Coles

@bencoles_

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Preview
Friday , September 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 27
Saracens vs Sale15:00
Leicester vs London Irish15:00
Northampton vs Bath15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Argentina vs New Zealand23:10
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Preview
Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
Saturday , September 27
Zebre vs Ulster15:00
Munster vs Ospreys18:30
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon vs Montpellier18:00
Stade Francais vs La Rochelle18:00
Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
Grenoble vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
Bayonne vs Toulouse18:00
Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Lyon vs Castres18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Pumas vs Western Province15:00
Griquas vs Lions15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Sunday , September 21
Otago vs WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
Clermont Auvergne 43 - 12 LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Report
Montpellier 23 - 3 Stade FrancaisMontpellier vs Stade Francais Report
La Rochelle 26 - 29 Bordeaux-Begles
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Connacht 10 - 9 LeinsterConnacht vs Leinster Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Brive 13 - 53 ToulonBrive vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 29 - 15 Pumas
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Counties Manukau 20 - 28 CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath314
2Saracens313
3Exeter310
4Leicester Tigers39
5Harlequins38