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Barnes issues All Blacks warning to England

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    01 Jan 2018     Getty Images

Writing in his Sunday Times (London) column, Barnes said the November 10 game at Twickenham between England and the All Blacks was going to become the focal point of rugby in 2018.

Jones, in his desire to assess where England is at ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, has decided the All Blacks will be a measure of how much progress England has made under his charge.

"He has a healthy obsession with New Zealand. They are the yardstick by which international aspirations are judged," Barnes said.

"Beat the world's No.1 side and the World Cup is winnable. A psychological blow will have been struck. So goes the theory.

"Here's another one. Hype November 10 to the hilt. It does rugby union no harm to hog front-page headlines. But even if England win at Twickenham, the All Blacks are not going to tremble if they meet in Japan, on neutral ground.

"Steve Hansen's team do occasionally lose. Australia beat them this year but not too many are talking Australia up as potential world champions after heavy defeats in London and Edinburgh.

"And while an England win would boost the self-belief of the team, that is hardly a commodity of which they are short," Barnes said.

England would be looking to the expected increased competitiveness of the Six Nations to prepare for the All Blacks and it was likely that the game against Scotland, an improved Scotland team which suffered a narrow loss to New Zealand and had a 50-point win over Australia, would go a long way to pointing out England's prospects.

That was because Scotland was the northern hemisphere with the ability to play closest to the sort of tempo the All Blacks play.

Barnes remarked the quality of play was essential for England's advance.

"The better the opposition, the greater the chance for improvement. Easy wins are ecstasy for the Little Englander obsessed with putting down regional uprisings but it is not the length of the win list that counts; it is the quality of performance required to keep those wins ticking over," he said.