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Preview: New Zealand v England

Fri, 20 Jun 2014 06:10
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We don't feel we've put the foot on the throat
Quote-end

New Zealand will be out to make it a 'blackwash' of England and tie the record of consecutive Test victories in Hamilton on Saturday.

England are the only team to have beaten the All Blacks since they lifted the World Cup in 2011, and Stuart Lancaster's team have been highly competitive on this tour and they will be playing their last game of the season.

Although New Zealand wrapped up the series by winning the first two Tests, assistant coach Ian Foster said: "We don't feel we've put the foot on the throat to the point we want to."

The All Blacks have made only two injury-related changes as they work on getting their preferred starting line-up playing with more consistency.

However England, with the series gone, have swung the axe and made seven changes as their quest to beat the All Blacks now becomes a search for sound combinations before they host next year's World Cup.

At stake for New Zealand is not only a further chance to gain a psychological blow over England, but also to become the most successful tier-one Test nation.

They've already won 16 Tests in a row and a win on Saturday will equal the record of 17 held by the All Blacks (1965-69) and Springboks (1997-98).

International player of the year Kieran Read returns for the home team now he is over his concussion issues and enterprising centre Malakai Fekitoa gets his first Test start in place of the injured Conrad Smith.

The misfiring Aaron Cruden retains the No.10 jersey ahead of the in-form Beauden Barrett with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen saying one new combination in the backs was enough when trying to produce a complete performance.

Hansen described Fekitoa as a "special" player and was not concerned about the rawness of his partnership with veteran Ma'a Nonu in the midfield.

"They'll be a good combination going forward. But like with any new combination, it takes time," he said.

"There will be mistakes. It's just what we do when we make the mistakes and how quickly we repair it. I'm not too concerned. I think (Fekitoa's) going to be a special player."

The return of Read to partner Richie McCaw and Jerome Kaino re-establishes a partnership last seen together when the All Blacks beat France in the 2011 World Cup Final.

Despite winning the first two Tests, it was only in the third quarter of the second Test, when the All Blacks ran in three tries, that they played at a much higher level than England.

The aim in Hamilton is to produce that performance for 80 minutes.

"That's our primary driver so I guarantee there'll be no complacency," Foster said.

Among the wholesale changes in the England line-up, the experiment of playing Manu Tuilagi on the wing has been abandoned and he returns to the No.12 jersey to ensure a baptism of fire for Fekitoa.

Freddie Burns has regained the flyhalf spot with Ben Youngs at scrumhalf and Kyle Eastmond at inside centre while Chris Ashton comes in on the wing.

In the forwards Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola take over from Rob Webber, Joe Launchbury and Ben Morgan.

"I still think we are finding out who can really deliver at the highest level," England coach Stuart Lancaster said.

"Our aim was to win a Test series and we are disappointed that we haven't.

"We have progressed as a squad during this tour and while there has been challenges with the end of season scheduling affecting selection it has been a great opportunity to work with a wider group of players and test many of them at the highest level in the build up to the World Cup."

Players to watch:

For New Zealand: Ben Smith is an excitement machine who is in great form and will be devastating if he links up with the likes of Julian Savea. Malakai Fekitoa makes his first Test start and will want to show the hard running that has made him such a star for the Highlanders this year. Aaron Cruden is under pressure to keep his spot and his halfback partner Aaron Smith is always a handful for the opposition. In the pack Kieran Read returns to complete the old guard loose trio with RiChie McCaw and Jerome Kaino. Up front expect plenty of physicality from Brodie Retallick and another strong scrummaging performance from Owen Franks.

For England: Mike Brown and Chris Ashton will be a threat on the counter-attack, Manu Tuilagi is back in his favoured position whilst Freddie Burns has another chance to impress at flyhalf. Billy Vunipola should take the All Blacks on physically, Joe Launchbury will run the line-outs in the absence of the injured Geoff Parling and Joe Marler will be the key man at scrum-time.

Head to head: Ben Smith and Mike Brown will both look to attack from the back but the biggest clash will be in midfield where Manu Tuilagi will be up against Malakai Fekitoa. The injury to Danny Care means that Ben Youngs gets a chance to show what he can do up against the electric Aaron Smith. The duel at the breadown between captains Richie McCaw and Chris Robshaw will be key as ever and up front it will be Joe Launchbury against Sam Whitelock in the line-outs and David Wilson against the experienced Tony Woodcock at scrum-time.

Recent results:
2014: New Zealand won 28-27 in Dunedin
2014: New Zealand won 20-25 in Auckland
2013: New Zealand won 30-22 in London
2012: England won 38-21 in London
2010: New Zealand won 26-16 in London
2009: New Zealand won 19-6 in London
2008: New Zealand won 32-6 in London
2008: New Zealand won 44-12 in Christchurch
2008: New Zealand won 37-20 in Auckland
2006: New Zealand won 41-20 in London
2005: New Zealand won 23-19 in London

Prediction: England have punched above their weight all tour and will be up for this one again, but the All Blacks should have enough to win by about seven points.

Teams:

New Zealand:
15 Ben Smith, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Liam Messam, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ryan Crotty.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Joe Launchbury, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Dave Atwood, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Luther Burrell.

Date: Saturday, June 21
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT; 08.35 BST)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy but dry, high of 20, 15 kph wind
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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