England 38-21 New Zealand
AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS: ENGLAND V NEW ZEALAND
- Venue: Twickenham
- Date: Saturday, 1 December
- Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live & online; watch highlights on Saturday (BBC Three, 19:00-20:00 GMT) or Sunday (BBC Two, 12:30-13:30); text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles
A year which began with a breath of fresh air blowing through the England ranks is ending under a cloud of renewed doubt.
There can be little question that the team which Stuart Lancaster sends out against the All Blacks will be a more unified force than the ragged bunch which bowed out of last year’s World Cup.
But on recent evidence it looks only a little more capable of producing meaningful results against the world’s best.
The momentum built during a heartening Six Nations campaign has petered out in the face of opposition from the southern hemisphere.
A winless Test series in South Africa did not cause unnecessary alarm but failure to beat Australia or the Springboks at Twickenham has attracted more rigorous scrutiny.
Stuart Lancaster’s honeymoon period as head coach is undoubtedly over. But it is skipper Chris Robshaw who has faced the most pressing questions over the last fortnight.
Jeremy Guscott Rugby union analyst, BBC Sport
“If England had a better team I would start with Freddie Burns without any hesitation. But they don’t, so I wouldn’t. Burns, like any new cap, would be best introduced to international level surrounded by good, experienced players in a winning team. They would look after him, relieving him of any pressure.”
Against South Africa his decision to go for goal in the dying minutes, rather than kick for touch and press for a winning score, turned out to be a decisively bad call.
A week earlier he spurned opportunities to kick at goal against Australia and so potentially denied his side points that could have won the game.
There were, of course, reasons for his decisions, not least of which was England’s failure to pose a genuine try-scoring threat in the 78 minutes leading up to that fateful call against the Springboks.
As such a tendency towards the percentages – kick for goal then try to engineer another sight of the posts from the restart – was perhaps understandable, if not correct.
Robshaw himself admitted he got that call wrong but to focus entirely on the skipper’s mistake would be to ignore the wider context. The fact is that while England were more than a physical match for South Africa, they still lacked the creative spark to turn their superior possession stats into dominance on the scoreboard.
And that, more than Robshaw’s error, will be of greater concern as they prepare to face a New Zealand team that continues to swat aside everything placed in its path with impressive ease.
Ironically England must unearth inspiration against a team who are able to pluck ideas out of the game’s creative ether at will.
England have not beaten the All Blacks in getting on for a decade. That is unlikely to change at Twickenham. Instead they will look to provide a performance which restores hope that the initial breath of fresh air can build into a real wind of change.
- The teams have met 34 times, England have won six, New Zealand 27, with one draw.
- England have lost their last nine meetings with the All Blacks since a 15-13 win in Wellington in June 2003.
- They have not beaten New Zealand in their last five encounters at Twickenham, since a 31-28 victory in November 2002.
- That 2002 result was the one anomaly in a sequence that normally sees England beat New Zealand in a year with a three in it – their other victories over the All-Blacks coming in 2003, 1993, 1983, 1973 and 1936.
- England have won just one of their last six Tests.
- If Stuart Lancaster’s side lose to New Zealand they will register more defeats than wins in a calendar year for the first time since 2008 (W4, L7).
- It will be England’s 350th Test win if they beat New Zealand.
- England’s only Twickenham victory in the last six years against any of the three major southern hemisphere sides came at the expense of Australia in November 2010 (W1, L9).
- They have scored at least one try in 28 of their last 31 Tests, amassing 68 in total. The only teams to deny them since 2010 are Wales (twice) and South Africa.
- The All Blacks are unbeaten in 20 matches (W19 D1) since losing to Australia in their last game of the 2011 Tri-Nations.
- Dan Carter has 243 conversions in his Test career, 68 more than any other player in the world.
- The All Blacks have failed to score a try just once in their last 50 games (v Australia in October.)
- It is 10 years since they last lost a touring Test match in Europe (28-31 against England in 2002).
England: 15-Alex Goode, 14-Chris Ashton, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Brad Barritt, 11-Mike Brown, 10-Owen Farrell, 9-Ben Youngs; 1 -Alex Corbisiero, 2-Tom Youngs, 3-Dan Cole, 4-Joe Launchbury, 5-Geoff Parling, 6-Tom Wood, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 8-Ben Morgan.
Replacements: 16-David Paice, 17-Dave Wilson, 18-Mako Vunipola, 19-Courtney Lawes, 20-James Haskell, 21-Danny Care, 22-Freddie Burns, 23-Jonathan Joseph.
New Zealand : 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Aaron Smith; 1-Tony Woodcock, 2-Keven Mealamu, 3-Owen Franks, 4-Brodie Retallick, 5-Sam Whitelock, 6-Liam Messam, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 8-8-Kieran Read.
Replacements: 16-Dane Coles, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Charlie Faumuina, 19-Luke Romano, 20-Victor Vito, 21-Piri Weepu, 22-Aaron Cruden, 23-Ben Smith.
Referee: George Clancey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales) & Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TV: Giulio De Santis (Italy)