New Zealand vs England third test preview: Head to head ratings


No.New ZealandRatingEnglandRating
1.Tony Woodcock – Still a very solid option, but time is beginning to take its toll on Woodcock. An underrated leader.7Joe Marler – Marler has gone from strength to strength recently and has been a key part of a dominant English set-piece this summer.8
2.Dane Coles – Still inexperienced at this level and his lack of precision at the lineout has hurt the All Blacks. Superb in the loose, however.7.5Dylan Hartley – Not at the level of Bismarck du Plessis or Adriaan Strauss, but arguably the best the northern hemisphere has to offer.8
3.Owen Franks – An ever-improving player, Franks has struggled at times in the series, but is a good, all-round prop.7David Wilson – Dominant at the scrum thus far, but uncharacteristic handling errors have diminished his impact somewhat.7.5
4.Brodie Retallick – A mountain of a man, Retallick will have to be at his best to match-up to the physicality Lawes will bring.8Courtney Lawes – A destructive tackler who can swing momentum entirely in a moment. Excellent at stealing opposition lineout ball, too.8.5
5.Samuel Whitelock – The brains of New Zealand’s tight five, Whitelock will have his hands full dealing with England’s lineout savants.8Joe Launchbury – Launchbury has looked slightly fatigued so far, but you can still be assured of a highly-committed performance.8
6.Jerome Kaino – Kaino moves from eight to the blindside to accommodate Read, but expect him to be just as influential. Fearsome tackler and carrier.8Tom Wood – A committed performance in the second test, more of the same is all that’s needed from Wood.8
7.Richie McCaw – Visibly slowing down, but the old maestro still has a trick or two up his sleeve. Seems to have lost his invisibility cloak, though.8Chris Robshaw – No one gives more for England. Great link man in the loose, but gets exposed at the breakdown by archetypal jackals.7.5
8.Kieran Read – Returns from concussion issues. The All Black is the most skillful eight in rugby, but he will want to avoid an arm wrestle with Vunipola.9Billy Vunipola – Like Marler, Vunipola seemingly goes from strength to strength in this England team. Should be fresh after not starting last week.8
9.Aaron Smith – Pressing his case as the form scrum-half in world rugby. Great distribution and a real danger around the fringes.8.5Ben Youngs – Care had been making the jersey his own, but a poor second test and injury give Youngs a chance to stake his claim.7.5
10.Aaron Cruden – Complete fly-half who seems to be maturing into a capable successor to Dan Carter’s shirt.8.5Freddie Burns – Horrendous club season but composed in the first test. Yet to really have a bad game in England colours.7.5
11.Julian Savea – Probably the most destructive winger currently playing, Savea can beat you with power or speed.9Marland Yarde – Arguably outplayed Savea in the second test, but not quite at the Kiwi’s level – yet.8
12.Ma’a Nonu – Invariably saves his best performances for the All Blacks, but has looked out of sorts at times recently, particularly defensively.8Kyle Eastmond – Unlucky to lose his place for the second test, Eastmond is a threat as a runner and a distributor. Solid defensively for a smaller back.8
13.Malakai Fekitoa – Has set Super Rugby alight. A scary prospect, but still a work-in-progress – often out of position defensively.8Manu Tuilagi – Tuilagi is similar in style to Fekitoa, but a more powerful and experienced version. Thankfully, back in his preferred position for this test.9
14.Cory Jane – Well-rounded back three player who does everything well and nothing poorly.8Chris Ashton – Playing well, but still searching for the form that set the world alight a few years ago.7.5
15.Ben Smith – Imperious in second test. Like Jane, he has no weaknesses, and hat is well and truly in the ring for best fullback in the game.9.5Mike Brown – Solid outings on tour, but should of been on Tuilagi’s shoulder for his breakaway in the second test – Foden would have been.8


The numbers suggest a New Zealand win, and I wouldn’t argue with them. England look to have a dominance up front and at the set-piece, something which they have enjoyed throughout series, but the constant chopping and changing of the lineup this summer (partially enforced by the scheduling) has made it difficult for them to maintain momentum. The experiment of putting Tuilagi on the wing was a failure, although that can be attributed more to sub-par performances from the midfield combination of Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell, than it can be to Tuilagi himself. The 12-13 axis of Eastmond and Tuilagi is one to look forward to, as is the duel between Tuilagi and the young pretender to his throne, Fekitoa.

England certainly have a chance in this match, especially if they can continue their set-piece dominance, but with New Zealand able to keep together largely the same squad they used in the first test, continuity and momentum are both on their side. The additions of Read and Fekitoa add another dimension to the All Blacks’ attacking game too, and possibly make it a bridge too far for England. New Zealand by 3.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

6 thoughts on “New Zealand vs England third test preview: Head to head ratings

  1. I think the incoming England players might just make enough difference. Especially Vunipola. If he can get good ball and carry the way he usually does, and take defenders with him, he could be the difference. Reid maybe skilful, but Billy is destructive when he gets going, and could be the platform we need to bring Eastmond and Tuilagi into the attack.

    Come on England!!

  2. I think that “Chopping and Changing” is overstating it a little.

    Of the changes, the half backs and the loss of Parling are probably the ones that will have the most affect, and both are unavoidable.

    Tuilagi’s excusrion out onto the wing possibly affected the play of the second test, but his return this week, will be beneficial. Ashton in is a good thing. Eastmond has had a rest before joining the same midfield as two weeks ago.

    Vunipola/Morgan is the same as the 6N, and really a like for like switch in terms of how the team play. Hartley and Webber is a like-for-like switch.

    In my opinion the changes to the NZ team will be more relevant because Read and Fekitoa will change the dynamics of the team. Read is clearly not fit, so that shape will change early in the second half, and I will go out on a limb and suggest that Fekitoia will struggle positionally in defence.

    1. IT has largely been enforced, and as such I don’t blame the coaches for it. But IMO “chopping and changing” is pretty accurate, especially compared to the ABs

  3. Encouraged by England’s try scoring recently and this lineup certainly has the ability to continue that. Young’s needs a big game, if he can get the ball away quickly and put BV or Tuilagi into the 10 channel at speed we could Do well.

    Think Ashton might make a difference in this game, his support lines off Tui and Eastmond could see him make a couple of breaks.

  4. Personally think you’re a tad harsh on Robshaw.
    I’ve always pondered what Robshaw offers over Wood and Haskell and often thought whether he should be in at all when Croft is firing again but his stock has risen massively for me this summer. Despite the series loss he has outplayed McCaw for all but 20 minutes of this tour and definitely deserves a higher mark than Youngs (who deserves a 6 at best).
    I actually think a lot of these ratings are a bit awry, Fekitoa is completely unproven at this level and is facing a well balanced partnership that even gave the massively experienced Smith some problems, yet is given an 8 right off the bat.

  5. Agree with the ratings comment, Robshaw should be an 8, Corey Jane has been severly average so far this test series, i remember him making a few errors last weekend, poor offloading etc…and im not sure many kiwis would agree with your statement about cruden being a complete fly half! I wonder when all this talk of Robshaw not being a great player will die down. Consistently outplays his opposite number and when that opposite number is McCaw then bloody well done! Although, at risk of starting the Armitage debate, would love to see a backrow of Vunipola, Robshaw and Armitage 8,6 and 7 respectfully.

    Massive call by Lancaster leaving out 12trees, I thought he would back his man, as he has done so far when hes fit. To think Eastmond would start 2 tests in New Zealand during the six nations! One criticism is Lancaster does choose odd backs on the bench. I really like Cipriani, but Burrell? May can cover outside centre, wing and fullback.

    One huge positive from last week that hasnt been mentioned much is England managed 2 scores at the end of the game. In the build up much was made of how England dont score in the latter stages of a game, so that was big for us.

    Can see this game going either way, but hey if we win this one, that puts us in a great position for the test at Twickenham, and it might just might finish 2-2 going into the world cup.

    Heres to hoping!

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