Ex-England fly-half predicts ‘upset’ against All Blacks side that are ‘not the New Zealand of old’

Colin Newboult
Steve Borthwick and Scott Robertson, who will face off when England visit New Zealand in July.

Steve Borthwick and Scott Robertson, who will face off when England visit New Zealand in July.

Former England fly-half Freddie Burns has confidently stated that Steve Borthwick’s side will win at least one game against the All Blacks next month.

The Red Rose prepare to head to the southern hemisphere in a much better position than they were in the middle of the Six Nations.

Borthwick’s men were heavily criticised following their error-strewn defeat to Scotland in February, but they responded to deny Ireland the Grand Slam.

They then almost defeated France in another stunning encounter, which was ultimately decided by Thomas Ramos’ late three-pointer.

Ahead of All Blacks in their development

England may have better cohesion than the All Blacks, who are rebuilding after their typical post-Rugby World Cup exodus.

Gone are the legendary Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock and potentially Sam Cane, with new head coach Scott Robertson tasked with refreshing the squad.

That could play into the tourists’ hands next month, according to Burns, with the Red Rose looking to catch the All Blacks cold in their two-Test series.

“New Zealand rugby is going through a bit of a transition at the minute. The Crusaders aren’t quite that same force, so I think England have got a realistic chance to go down there and upset a few people, and go away with at least a series draw, if not a series win,” he told RugbyPass TV.

“It’s more the changing of the guard. It’s that transition period. Mo’unga’s gone abroad, they’ve lost that combination and the Crusaders for so long were stacked with All Blacks, similar to Leinster with Ireland.

“That’s no longer there anymore, so I don’t think New Zealand are going to be the same force.”

England select six uncapped players for mid-year Tests as Tom Curry goes despite Sale Sharks’ reservations

Youthful England

England themselves have a young squad, with Borthwick naming six uncapped players in their 36-man group to tour Japan and New Zealand, but the majority did have the Six Nations together.

They appear to have created a bit more depth and found a spine of the team with the likes of Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Ben Earl, Alex Mitchell, Ollie Lawrence and George Furbank nailing down key positions.

Although the outstanding fly-half George Ford is out, they do have Marcus Smith waiting in the wings, while youngster Fin Smith was superb in Northampton Saints’ Premiership title win.

Burns admits that facing the All Blacks in New Zealand will always be tough but insists that England have “an opportunity” to do something special.

“Are they going to be a rollover? Of course not, it’s going to be a hard Test series, but I think this is England’s best chance to get something done,” he continued.

“I don’t think it’s the New Zealand of old. There’s still some great players there, I’m not saying it’s going to be a New Zealand ‘B’ team, it’s going to be tough, but there’s an opportunity.

“I feel like there’s players playing in the Premiership right now that are performing at a standard that can go down there and really give it to ‘em.”

READ MORE: Patrick Tuipulotu sidelined, All Blacks legends departed: What are the options at lock for Scott Robertson?