Jun 9, 1032 days ago

England v All Blacks – First Test preview

England v All Blacks – First Test preview

Scheduling a Test match just a week after the end of the English Premiership season is hardly the work of a genius. England would have found it tough to beat New Zealand with a full strength side never mind a depleted squad and so it promises to be a tough test for Stuart Lancaster’s side this Saturday.

The All Blacks haven’t lost a Test at Eden Park in almost 20 years and are coming off the back of the professional era’s first unbeaten year. Keep reading for our preview of the first Test.

The All Blacks are a fearsome team but respect England

Whichever way you look at it, the All Blacks are a fearsome team. The world champions have not lost at home in 30 matches and local expectation is for a 3-0 series whitewash. Steve Hansen’s squad is full of experienced, in-form players, with depth in almost every department. Richie McCaw, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Ma’a Nonu have nearly 50 more caps between them than England’s 31 man party for the first Test.

However, the hosts aren’t taking England lightly, considering Stuart Lancaster’s side were the last team to beat the All Blacks. Former All Black Craig Dowd told the Guardian: “The brand of rugby is different as England tends to favour a more pack-based game, whereas New Zealand like to throw it around but there’s plenty of respect.

“They’re building a strong side under Lancaster and whatever team ends up being put out it won’t be an easy task. That defeat in 2012 really hurt – the All Blacks didn’t play well, for whatever reason, but England were brilliant and deserved their win.”

And, coach Steve Hansen has called England the ‘most improved side in world rugby in the last two years’.

England fielding fourth choice players in some key positions

The scheduling of this match is a massive headache for England coming just seven days after the Saracens v Northampton Premiership final. On top of that, England also have injury problems with Billy Twelvetrees the latest player to be ruled out through injury.

Twelvetrees’ absence means that Kyle Eastmond is likely to win his third cap. The diminutive former Rugby League man shone on last summer’s tour to Argentina but has endured a tricky 2013/14, falling out of favour at Bath.

If, as expected, Eastmond and Freddie Burns – in the absence of Owen Farrell, Stephen Myler and George Ford – are to line up at fly-half and inside centre, then England will be fielding their fourth choice players in those key positions – hardly ideal for a game against the world champions.

The tourists’ problems were perhaps best summed up when All Black Brodie Retallick was asked about England’s likely line-up on Saturday…and failed to correctly name a single England player.

Verdict

England may be the most improved team in world rugby but even their strongest XV would struggle to overcome this powerful and ruthless New Zealand team on home turf.

The tourists have conceded an average of 37 points in each of the three games they have played in Auckland since their win 41 years ago and another heavy defeat isn’t out of the question. England lost by 17 points at Eden Park in 2008 and I fancy this could be a bigger defeat.

Back the All Blacks to overcome the 19 point handicap and give a second-string England team a hiding at 10/11.

Rugby Union Betting

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