Preview: All Blacks v England
Sportal.co.nz 15 Nov 2013 Getty Images
LAST TIME: New Zealand 21 lost to England 38, December 1, 2012 at Twickenham
WALKING WOUNDED: England have been struggling all week with injuries, and props Mako Vunipola (knee) and Alex Corbisiero (knee) will be key losses. Henry Trinder has a dead leg and wasn't considered while wings Marland Yarde (hip) and Christian Wade (hamstring) are also out. Halfback Ben Youngs is back after suffering a hip injury. Earlier, block-busting centre Manu Tuilagi was ruled out. While others with longer term injuries are Brad Barritt and Tom Croft. For New Zealand Cory Jane's return from injury has not been sufficient for him to displace in-form Charles Piutau while Julian Savea returns to the left-wing after recovering from illness. The only absentee from a full-strength All Blacks XV is centre Conrad Smith who is on sabbatical.
FORM: England have come into their latest campaign on the back of wins over Australia and Argentina. They have continued the winning momentum that has seen them win nine of 10 Tests played since they beat the All Blacks last year. Coach Stuart Lancaster said: "We've got 23 games to go before the World Cup and they're all building blocks in that journey towards 2015. But the first and foremost thing is: we've got to keep winning. While it's all about building for the future, the more important thing is to win in the here and now and that's what we'll be aiming to do. The New Zealand is going to be a key game for us to see where we're at, but equally, we go out there in the summer, play a three-game series and then play them again this time next year as well so I think we'll know each other pretty well by the end. We want to be competitive against them. They're a benchmark for any team in world sport, never mind rugby and we're looking forward to the challenge."
New Zealand have enjoyed a remarkable year which culminated in a pulsating victory at Ellis Park to claim The Rugby Championship. While reaching those heights are only possible once a season, the side has maintained winning impetus and faced a searching probe by France last week. That plus the natural build-up associated for any game with England will ensure the All Blacks will be well prepared. Their side could only be stronger with Conrad Smith in it. An added incentive for success is the occasion marks Dan Carter's 100th Test match.
WE THINK: England are desperate to build on their victory over New Zealand of 12 months ago but the trial in this contest is whether their team is better than that combination. Certainly the All Blacks have advanced their game since then. However, the lesson from that last contest was the need to secure a solid platform up front and the scrum will undoubtedly be subjected to some pressure. The application of the resources to the breakdown area will also be a factor, as always, while England will look to first five-eighths Owen Farrell to provide the play-making savvy to prise open the All Blacks' defences. It may come down to the final quarter before a winner emerges but that should be the New Zealanders. We pick the All Blacks by 10.
England: 1.Joe Marler, 2.Dylan Hartley, 3.Dan Cole, 4.Joe Launchbury, 5.Courtney Lawes, 6.Tom Wood, 7.Chris Robshaw (captain), 8.Billy Vunipola, 9.Lee Dickson, 10.Owen Farrell, 11.Ben Foden, 12.Billy Twelvetrees, 13.Joel Tomkins, 14.Chris Ashton, 15.Mike Brown.
Reserves: 16. Tom Youngs, 17.Matt Mullan, 18.David Wilson, 19.Geoff Parling, 20.Ben Morgan, 21.Ben Youngs, 22.Toby Flood, 23.Alex Goode.
New Zealand: 1. Tony Woodcock, 2.Keven Mealamu, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Dan Carter, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Ben Smith, 14.Charles Piutau, 15.Israel Dagg.
Reserves: 16.Dane Coles, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Charlie Faumuina, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Stephen Luatua, 21.Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22.Aaron Cruden, 23.Ryan Crotty.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
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