This time last year, the Rugby world was desperate to see this showdown, as Eddie Jones’ England were in the ascendancy and talking such a good game about reaching number 1 in the rankings and winning the Rugby World Cup.
Now though, after a frankly dismal run of both results and performances in 2018, there is only hope for England fans rather than expectation.
With a quick glance at the team sheets, it’s not easy to see any weaknesses in the New Zealand line up, and with little indication of what England’s gameplan actually is these days, it’s hard to see how they can beat the best team in the world.
|Ben Moon||1||Karl Tu’inukuafe|
|Dylan Hartley||2||Codie Taylor|
|Kyle Sinckler||3||Owen Franks|
|Maro Itoje||4||Sam Whitelock|
|George Kruis||5||Brodie Retallick|
|Brad Shields||6||Liam Squire|
|Sam Underhill||7||Ardie Savea|
|Mark Wilson||8||Kieran Read|
|Ben Youngs||9||Aaron Smith|
|Owen Farrell||10||Beauden Barrett|
|Jonny May||11||Rieko Ioane|
|Ben Te’o||12||Sonny Bill Williams|
|Henry Slade||13||Jack Goodhue|
|Chris Ashton||14||Ben Smith|
|Elliot Daly||15||Damian McKenzie|
|Jamie George||16||Dane Coles|
|Alec Hepburn||17||Ofa Tuungafasi|
|Harry Williams||18||Nepo Laulala|
|Charlie Ewels||19||Scott Barrett|
|Courtney Lawes||20||Matt Todd|
|Danny Care||21||TJ Perenara|
|George Ford||22||Richie Mo’unga|
|Jack Nowell||23||Ryan Crotty|
It seems ridiculous to say, but if you had to name a weakness, it is probably Beauden Barrett. Whilst he can be the best in the world in attack and in kicking from hand, he is prone to an occasional off day with the boot when kicking for goal, and he might just have one of those on Saturday.
But with England so generous in their penalty offerings, there will likely be plenty of opportunities, and it won’t take long before Damian McKenzie takes over (if he doesn’t take the first one), and Richie Mo’unga is waiting on the bench anyway.
For England to win, they need to harry New Zealand with a rush defence that gives nothing away, and puts every ball-carrier under pressure, forcing mistakes and turnovers. There must be no easy yards through midfield, because New Zealand won’t be nearly as profligate in attack as the Springboks last weekend. They need to be disciplined throughout with no silly penalties, and they need to be clinical in taking any chance that comes their way.
Unfortunately for the home team, every single one of those seems beyond them, and I think the All Blacks will win.
Of course, they might have picked up food poisoning from a Twickenham curry house this week, or had a rampant norovirus tearing through the camp – you never know, but you can’t predict that sort of thing.
New Zealand by 13