Investec Internationals Preview: England v New Zealand

Investec RugbyDate: Saturday 6th of November
Kick off: 14:30
Venue: Twickenham

So much hype has been surrounding the England squad following their win against Australia on their summer tour, but one victory does not mean anything if it is not the foundation for future success. Victory against New Zealand would be huge; both in terms of belief going into next year’s Rugby World Cup and for the rest of the Investec internationals. Several young guns like Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton will be making their Twickenham debuts, and plenty of supporters’ hopes are resting on these players having an impact, but this a lot to ask against the All Blacks.

New Zealand:
The task facing Martin Johnson’s men is a mammoth one. New Zealand on any day are the best side in the world, but a wounded All Black side following last week’s defeat to Australia in Hong Kong makes them even more ominous. They also seem to relish this fixture: something about Twickenham brings out the best in any New Zealand side, particularly the King at number 10, Dan Carter. Rookie Sonny Bill Williams comes in for Conrad Smith to join Ma’a Nonu in the centres, and with one or two other changes to the side, there are suggestions that the All Blacks are not short of confidence ahead of this fixture.

What to expect:
New Zealand to try and reinforce their billing as the best team in the world. Whilst they may have lost last week, it was in the 81st minute that they conceded, and it was not as though they were thrashed by the Wallabies. Carter’s presence is crucial: the All Blacks’ capitulation and Carter’s absence from the pitch was not a mere coincidence. Much of the talk from their camp during the week has been about how they will play with width, and following various misjudged comments from the England camp about the Tri-Nations ‘not being Test rugby’, they’ll be keen to teach England a lesson.

The English game plan appears to be the opposite; to play it through the forwards and try and take the All Blacks on in the set piece. Andrew Sheridan’s selection is crucial for this to be a success, and if England can gain the upper hand in the scrum, then they could gain valuable field position or shots at goal for Toby Flood. It is a big “if” though, because Owen Franks is no mug at tighthead. There are also plenty of lineout options with the inclusion of Tom Croft at 6, and Lawes and Tom Palmer will attempt to put pressure on the All Blacks’ throw to limit their supply of possession. The absence of a playmaker at 12 is a concern though as England have great attacking threats in the back three, but whether they will ever get the ball is questionable.

All eyes on:
Courtney LawesNorthampton young gun Courtney Lawes. If he follows Simon Shaw’s example, Lawes could play for England for the next 16 years. Richie McCaw and Kieran Read seemed to have little knowledge of who he was in the build-up this week, so he may give them a nasty surprise if runs at them one on one in the loose. He is essential to England’s prospects in the lineout, and the presence of Croft, Palmer and Nick Easter should help to relieve some of the pressure on him and allow him to unleash his natural talents. He is a remarkable athlete, and hopefully will rise to the challenge.

For the All Blacks, all the hype has been around the debut of Sonny Bill Williams at outside centre. Everything about him is impressive; his stature, the fact he is the first Kiwi to play both League and Union at international level in 15 years, and that he has made the All Blacks side without playing a game of Super Rugby. Of concern to England will be the fact that his strength and size do not seem to hinder his quick feet and ability to offload.

Head to head: Lewis Moody v Richie McCaw
Two captains, two world class number 7s. Despite a rather nasty eye injury, Moody has recovered in time to lead out England on Saturday, and this provides a huge boost for the team. He gives everything, regardless of personal safety, and as a captain his actions are more than enough to inspire his team-mates without using any words. The back row has a better balance with Moody’s inclusion, and will need to be at its best as they face the stongest unit in the world.

McCaw’s accolades are numerous and richly deserved, but last week he showed a side of his game that people often forget. In the build up to Ma’a Nonu’s try he rampaged up the right hand side of the pitch, taking four Wallabies with him, reminding us of his ability to carry as well as his much-discussed habit of slowing down opposition ball at the breakdown. Expect him to raise his game yet again as he looks to notch another win at Twickenham.

Last year’s result: 21st November 2009 – England 6-19 New Zealand.

Weather forecast: No rain forecast, sunny and cloudy conditions. Maybe we’ll see some running rugby?

Prediction: In my view, England’s self-belief following the win against Australia is a touch naïve, given the extent to which that Wallaby side was under-strength and the fact that Matt Giteau missed a sitter to win the game. New Zealand have made changes across the board but that hasn’t greatly affected the quality of their side, and with Carter, Nonu and now Williams in midfield, they could simply have too much power and cutting edge. New Zealand by 15.

Insider view: Danny Care – on the bench on Saturday – caught up with Nick Heath this week to share his views on how the game will go.


How do you think the game will unfold? Can England cause an upset?

For the inside track on England, follow @Investec_Rugby on Twitter, and check out

By Ben Coles (@bennycoles)

Photo: Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images

20 thoughts on “Investec Internationals Preview: England v New Zealand

  1. I can’t wait now for this game. England do have a chance, albeit a slim one. It’s all about the lineout, where we should have an advantage – and the scrum, but probably to a lesser extent.

    If Mike Ford comes through with the ‘best defensive performance ever’, and Lawes, Croft, Youngs, Flood, Ashton and Foden get England going forwards with quick ball, you never know.

    Odds are heavily against, but how good would a win be?!

  2. I think your right with it only being one, rather narrow, win over Australia for England. One swallow does not make a summer.

    Would love to be optimistic but I think it will be a New Zealand win by six points.

    However, I think fans will be happy if the side show some progress. There is a lot of pressure on Youngs’ head, and Foden and Ashton need to run back from deep.

    I’m looking forward to this. Should be a curious encounter!

  3. Also like to point out, that the score between Aus and NZ last weekend was very flattening to the kiwi’s. Aus should have won 37 – 24, but due to poor kicking from Giteaux and Beale, the end result was a lot closer than it should have been. Are the Kiwi’s hitting that downward spiral before the RWC? And if so, can we capitalise on it?

    Question is, are we looking for a win? Or a performance? Or both? IMO, a year out from the RWC, and Johnno having been in charge for 2yrs now, I feel we should be able to expect both – though I’m not confident that thats what we’ll get.

  4. with equal preparation, we might have a good chance of beating them.
    but with no run out, and their lung burster v the aussies – we will be rusty and if you are rusty against NZ……..we know what happens

    i really like our front 5, its enormous but thompson and cole can actually get around the pitch and sheri is beastly @ close quarters. Lawes we know about, Palmer im not sure but hes good enough. he needs a BIG game.

    Back row will compete, i have a horrible feeling Moody wont last the game.

    Backs will compete, id be looking to confuse Sonny bill with clever words (hes dumb as a stump) because not much else will stop him!

    come on boys!

  5. Tommy, I don’t think one loss makes a spiral, only if they were to lose this weekend and maybe against Ireland would they start to panic. (That’s not a dig at Ireland, I just see them as the other side that could pull it off.)

    The best thing that has become obvious recently is that the lineout isn’t perfect and there’s no real back-up at 10 behind Carter.

  6. As an Australian I hate to say it, but this All Black’s team is something special.

    After the loss last week they will be out for revenge at Twickenham.

    Im sorry England, but I don’t think there is a team anywhere in the world at the moment that could stand a chance against these guys this weekend.

    Good luck though. I hope there is an upset!

  7. More excited about this game than any since RWC. This will be the day of revelation.

    Unfortunately for the first time in many years I’m not going to be able to watch the game (even on delay) as it’s not being screened on any channel here. What a pisser.

  8. Sorry Ben, maybe I wasn’t clear. One loss is definitely not a “spiral”, but what I actually meant is that it’s usually around this time, the yr before the RWC, that NZ start a downward spiral, and I’m wondering if the loss to Aus is the start of that. I highly doubt it, and I expect NZ to come out and play the best/most dominate rugby they’ve played in yrs, but I’m trying to stay a little optimistic.

  9. I don’t think Engalnd really believe they can beat New Zealand, so that’s a big disadvantage to start with. I went with an English friend to the Aus/Eng match last year and he said to me before the match – 1st 20 minutes, England are going to be fire and brimstone, After that, Aus are to take over and win. And thus it happened, as it will probably happen this weekend too. I would have played Olly Barkley and tested out SBW defence – he still hasn’t quite got union yet. Good luck to England anyway.

  10. I think that might be spot on…do England actually think deep down that they have a chance? I hope so.

    I would have played Barkley too, but hopefully Hape will take SBW on and maybe even create the half-gap. His off-loading is the best part of his game, so if he can sacrifice himself and draw Nonu and SBW, I can see Ashton steaming through the gap, stepping Muliaina and scoring in the corner.


  11. Personally looking forward to seeing Lawes come up against Whitelock in the lineout. Watched a fair chunk of this year’s Super 14 and he’s an awesome prospect.

  12. Ref will be Romain Poite who incidentally, also refereed England v Australia in Sydney. How he rules the breakdown will be crucial. The good thing is that Ben Youngs is a superb forager and will get that ball out – it’s whether the midfield we’ve picked to defend has enough going forward with the ball to attack. Cue Ashton & Foden to work some Saints magic.

    As I’ve said on Twitter a few times, my butterflies have started. The AB’s should do this by 10+ points. But maybe…. just maybe….!!!

  13. On the question of belief, did you guys hear Moody’s interview on R5? It was not encouraging. Acknowledged that we have to win or get very close to be taken seriously, but by no means confident that we can achieve either. On the other hand, even Johnno – one of the most aggressive and committed captains we’ve had – was always a little conservative and humble in his pre-match interviews.

    I’m most intrigued to see the tactics we adopt for this game. How we start out, and how we adapt as the game unfolds. I hope that Ford’s comments about a low-scoring game were a bluff intended to disguise our real intent, but I don’t think we’re that clever. And it certainly seems to have fired the AB’s up. We may regret it if they run up the score in the last quarter. It seems inevitable that there will be phases of the game where we resort to containment and slowing down the flow, but I just hope we keep that tactic up our sleeves until it makes sense. I’m still worried that for all the positives we have in the team selection, who out there is going to run the game for us? Who out there is going to start barking if we start to get dominated or fall behind?

  14. I genuinely think England have a chance tomorrow and I think they believe themselves that they can win… massive shame AB’s lost last week as I doubt the they have lost many back to back!

    Defence & Possession will be key but England will have to score at least 2 tries to win tomorrow AND hope AB’s discipline is off!!

    Really really excited, quality team on paper, Foden for first try scorer! BOOM!!

  15. As a ‘pomme’ who’s lived in New Zealand for 35 years let me give the England squad some good advice.

    That All Blacks play not to win but to ‘not lose’ – especially against their old colonial masters.

    New Zealanders despise their English ancestry and therefore the English squad. There is literally nothing better than beating them in the only way they can – RUGBY!

    The ABs ‘fear’ losing against them. The country will not stand for it! This is their ‘pathological’ weakness. The weight of expectation is ‘HUGE’ in this respect. ‘Anybody but England’ would sum it up very well.

    ‘GET IN BEHIND’ – this is what NZ sheep farmers say to their dogs when rounding up sheep. Treat the AB’s like the (black) sheep they mentally are! Look them squarely in the eye with the ‘no nonsense from you’ look that (bull)dogs give sheep when rounding them up. Whisper in their ear during scrum and maul time with the words ‘GET IN BEHIND’ and they will respond like the ‘fearful’ sheep they really are.

  16. Where can I watch this match from the States? They always show this on our satelite providers but not this time?? Any help appreciated. cheers sticky

  17. I too am at the mercy of foreign scheduling at the moment and have been trying to decide whether to stay up and try to hunt out a sports bar that’ll be showing it. Having read this i’ve now got that ridiculous “we just might do it” theory in my head and i can’t miss seeing it live. Cheers gents.

    Come on England!

  18. My P2P would be where some irresponsible people will be watching it streamed but you’d never find me advocating that. Not a chance…

    I’m going today and toing and froing constantly. Whilst I want to agree with the journos and say that Ford was just playing mindgames, everything he has done in his tenure at Rugby House says it isn’t – it his genuine died in the wool belief. Will he and the rest of then change and play a more attacking game? Well it happened in France in last match of 6N and 2nd test in Oz, but my memory (and correct me if I am wrong) is that the 1st test in between was total rubbish again. We only seem to play attacking rugby when there is nothing to lose so we might as well have a crack

    There is nothing to lose against NZ as they are leagues above everyone else but what will we see? God knows. I just fear they are goin to go after Floody early, get him injured and then bring on Hodgson and then it really will be awful. Can you imagine SBW running at Hodgson? Men against boys…

    And re NZ downward spiral, I’m not sure thats true. They are usually the best or 2nd best going into RWC and have form and then just have a brain melt. I can’t see anyone else winning it bar the ABs apart from their record. If they can’t handle the pressure away from NZ what is it going to be like at home. Whilst they should, They won’t win it. But god knows who will…

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