England brace for AB acid test
England coach Stuart Lancaster knows his side will have to up their game when world champions New Zealand arrive at Twickenham seeking revenge.
England coach Stuart Lancaster knows better than anyone his side will have to up their game when world champions New Zealand arrive at Twickenham seeking revenge.
The All Blacks made it 12 wins out of 12 in 2013 with a hard-fought 26-19 victory over France in Paris on Saturday after England had beaten Argentina 31-12 in London earlier in the day.
England scored three tries in a dominant first-half display against the Pumas to lead 24-6 at the break but had to wait until two minutes from time for their next points when replacement Ben Morgan crossed for their final try.
It was a disappointing second half after such a commanding opening 40 minutes but any complacency in the New Zealand camp will be tempered by the memory of their stunning 21-38 loss to England - the best result of Lancaster's reign - in last year's corresponding clash at Twickenham.
"You've got to give New Zealand the respect they deserve as a team but you've also got to give your own team self-belief and the belief that they can win," said Lancaster after seeing England follow up their 20-13 win over Australia with another victory.
"I know the players are delighted to have got two from two, that's nine out of our last 10 internationals we've won, so we've got an inner confidence building, but we recognise the challenge that's coming our way," he added ahead of this coming Saturday's crunch match.
England, with New Zealand-born hooker and man of the match Dylan Hartley leading the way, subdued Argentina up front in a first half where lock Joe Launchbury, centre Billy Twelvetrees and wing Chris Ashton - who crossed the All Blacks' line at Twickenham last year - all scored tries.
But Argentina, all of whose points came from penalties, responded gamely in the second half albeit rarely threatening a try.
Lancaster cited England's relative youth as a reason why they hadn't 'kicked on' after half-time.
"You are always striving for that 80-minute performance," he said.
"When you've got a young side and you are building and playing a pretty experienced [Argentina] side, who've been through a Rugby Championship together, and were pushing Australia, South Africa and New Zealand close, you know they are going to have their moments in the game.
"The second half, they probably got more moments than we would have wanted but I thought our defence was excellent. If you offered us 31-12, we'd have taken it."