England v New Zealand: All Blacks seek Twickenham revenge

Last Updated: 15/11/13 6:45pm

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Chris Robshaw will lead England into battle at Twickenham

Chris Robshaw will lead England into battle at Twickenham

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One year on from England's shock victory, the All Blacks are returning to Twickenham with a score to be settled.

The 38-21 defeat on December 1 2012 is New Zealand's only loss in over two years, a smear on an otherwise nearly perfect record that with each win since that afternoon has become harder to explain.

Food-poisoning talk was both rumoured and then brushed aside by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen at the time. Looking back on last year's events this week, he saw the fixture as a match where "England were the best team, daylight was second, and we were third."

Before toiling against France last weekend in Paris though, New Zealand in 2013 have been nothing short of phenomenal.

They swept aside their Southern Hemisphere rivals in The Rugby Championship with relative ease to win a second title in succession and doing so for large portions without Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.

Advantage

Both figureheads will be involved at Twickenham with McCaw adding to his record for the most caps leading his country with 85 and Carter becoming the fifth All Black to break the 100-cap mark after McCaw, Mils Muliaina, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock.

In fact when it comes to experience New Zealand's total of caps - 842 - completely overshadows that of Stuart Lancaster's side. McCaw alone has 127, the same number as England's entire back division. A wealth of experience counted for little in last year's anomaly, but it is an undeniable advantage.

McCaw will be flanked by Liam Messam and Kieran Read - with both enjoying outstanding seasons - while the new centre combination of Ma'a Nonu and Ben Smith are paired once again as Conrad Smith is on leave.

As for England, since that peak of last year's stunner they have won eight out of nine Test matches.

Lancaster's team are undoubtedly closer as a group, battle-hardened into a defensive unit that is winning matches - however unattractively they might be doing so.

Familiarity is an issue - this was only the second time Lee Dickson and Owen Farrell along with Billy Twelvetrees and Joel Tomkins had been paired together - but a spark to England's backplay is missing. Twelvetrees has the passing game to open England up, but a cluttered midfield full of forwards and Owen Farrell's inconsistency is slowing England down.

Unconvincing

Had injuries been avoided then we might have certainly seen Marland Yarde and Manu Tuilagi start, with possibly Christian Wade on the opposite wing in place of Chris Ashton. All three offer a burst of X-factor that is missing. Ben Foden has pace but is not a Test winger, whilst Ashton remains unconvincing despite scoring against the Pumas.

The pack is in good shape - even with the losses of both Alex Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola at loosehead prop - good enough anyhow to give England a platform, but the question is what they do with the product.

Only C.Smith and Cory Jane are missing from the XV that England famously brought down a year ago. The message from Chris Robshaw and the England coaching staff all week will have been one of having no fear, regardless of New Zealand's status and record.

England: Brown, Ashton, Tomkins, Twelvetrees, Foden, Farrell, Dickson, Vunipola, Robshaw (c), Wood, Lawes, Launchbury, Cole, Hartley, Marler.

Replacements: T Youngs, Mullan, Wilson, Parling, Morgan, B Youngs, Flood, Goode.

New Zealand: Dagg, Piutau, Smith, Nonu, Savea, Carter, Smith, Read, McCaw (c), Messam, Whitelock, Retallick, Franks, Mealamu, Woodcock.

Replacements: Coles, Crockett, Faumuina, Romano, Luatua, Kerr-Barlow, Cruden, Crotty.

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