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Preview: New Zealand v England

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Sportal.co.nz     19 Jul 2013     Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 21, New Zealand 13, England 7, drawn 1
LAST TIME: New Zealand 14 def England 9, July 16, 2013, at Waikato Stadium.

MISSING IN ACTION:  New Zealand fullback Victoria Grant's hamstring injury sees her out for this match.

A lack of injuries won't stop England coach Gary Street making a number of changes. Street made 10 changes to the team in the second encounter and it would be fair to predict a similar number will be made again given his philosophy of blooding talent ahead of the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup in France.

FORM: New Zealand were lucky to come away with their 14-9 win over England in Hamilton given their error-riddled first half. They were constantly on the back foot in the opening 40 minutes after England decided to get stuck in at the breakdown.

The defending champions lifted in the second half and resorted to what we are accustomed to seeing from the All Blacks – unstructured, attack-heavy, Sevens-style rugby. It might have been ugly at times, but it made for a stunning finish at Waikato Stadium for the 1200-odd supporters in attendance.

Fullback Selica Winiata scored the winning try in what was a fantastic second half effort. Originally slated in to start on the wing, her ability to mentally prepare minutes before kickoff was superb and ultimately the difference on Tuesday.

England, by contrast, were immensely unfortunate given their dominance over the opening 60 minutes of the match. If there was one criticism it was that they could only muster six points with a heavily favourable penalty count.

Steered superbly once again by flanker Marlie Packer and captain Sarah Hunter, the forwards got stuck in and were more aggressive than their rivals on Tuesday. Usually the team that wins the breakdown and set piece battles win the war, but it wasn't so on Tuesday despite a brave effort.

Katy McLean's boot was sound, as she kicked a 72nd minute penalty to give her side a 9-7 lead until the 81st minute. The rest is history.

WE THINK:
Saturday's match deserves to be the climax of the three-Test series. It was robbed of that opportunity by a stubborn New Zealand side, however, but don't expect the intensity to drop as a result.

England will be desperate to end their New Zealand tour on a high and end a 12-year drought when the two sides meet in Pukekohe on Saturday. They improved tremendously between their first and second Tests, with enhanced tactics and a malleable game plan aiding their cause.

New Zealand will be looking for another strong crowd in Pukekohe to push them over the line and secure a 3-0 series victory. England, however, understand what they need to do to secure a famous victory in New Zealand and their desperation for success could prove fruitful on Saturday. England by 4