Win a history of England v The All Blacks

England have played 16 different countries at World Cups and beaten all of them at one time or another… except for one. Their 0-3 RWC record against New Zealand is part of a grim overall picture, with England having won just seven of the 41 meetings since Dave Gallaher’s ‘Originals’ set the ball rolling at Crystal Palace in 1905.

That’s the backdrop to Saturday’s 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final in Yokohama, a match in which 15 All Black points will bring up their thousand against the English.

It’s an opportune time, therefore, to highlight Thorny Encounters, a history of this 114-year rivalry related in match-by-match form. As an Aucklander, author Matt Elliott brings a Kiwi slant to his analysis, intentional or otherwise. Nevertheless, he has done a very fine job in recording the context and key details of the first 40 England-New Zealand matches (the book was published last year just before the All Blacks’ 16-15 win at Twickenham).

Joe Cokanasiga in training

Pulling power: Joe Cokanasiga (middle) uses a resistance band during England training in Tokyo (Getty)

It starts with that 1905 meeting, when the referee was attired in cloth cap and knickerbockers, and the visitors’ touchjudge George Nicholson ran out puffing on a cigarette. We know this because of precious match footage, discovered in a New Zealand garage. A report in The Observer related of New Zealand’s 15-0 win that day: “Some men got temporarily knocked out, but no serious accident occurred.”

A 20-year gap ensued before New Zealand’s ‘Invincibles’ beat England despite having their biggest player, the 6ft 3in and 15st Cyril Brownlie, sent off for a kick after eight minutes. There were more than 80 scrums in the match, many of them reset!

England’s first win came in 1936 – the so-called Prince Obolensky’s match – and there was a winning try by Sam Whitelock’s grandfather, Nelson Dalzell, in 1954 before England’s first visit to New Zealand in 1963 – a whopping 58 years after the inaugural fixture.

Sam Whitelock v Ireland

In the blood: Sam Whitelock carries against Ireland. His grandfather faced England in 1954 (Getty Images)

Rugby was a different beast then, of course. Don Clarke’s winning kick in the second Test in Christchurch came from a ‘goal from a mark’, a score he had craftily engineered free of England chargers. He said: “England didn’t appreciate that they couldn’t advance until the ball was placed on the ground and I had [my brother] Ian holding it six inches above the ground. I took a step forward and paused. Three England players charged and I protested to the referee, who correctly awarded me a free-kick.” Which Clarke duly landed.

Not an issue that modern refs have to contend with, nor too the ludicrous law barring replacements; England lock Mike Davis dislocated his shoulder early in the match but, after a bit of strapping, re-emerged to heroically play until the finish.

England’s record v New Zealand

Played 41 Won 7 Lost 33 Drawn 1
Points 575 Points against 985
Tries 54 Tries against 118

The 1970s saw England’s efforts undermined by poor selections, like picking No 8 John Scott at lock (1978) and a running fly-half, Les Cusworth, instead of a kicking one, Alan Old (1979).

Bill Beaumont saw the writing on the wall, saying: “It soon dawned on me that I was going to be made the scapegoat for all the howlers that the selectors had made and, sure enough, I was relieved of the captaincy. To me it was like putting Jackie Stewart in a Mini Metro and, when he failed to win the British Grand Prix, sacking Stewart rather than changing the car.”

England beat the All Blacks by an identical 15-9 margin in 1983 and 1993, but the Nineties also brought those three RWC defeats and a new nemesis in Jonah Lomu.

England v New Zealand, 1993

You’re nabbed: Will Carling and Brian Moore get to grips with the All Blacks in 1993 (Getty Images)

The 1998 ‘Tour to Hell’ brought England’s heaviest-ever defeat in the fixture, 64-22 to go with a 40-10, and blunt words from All Black wing Jeff Wilson: “The two Tests were meaningless mismatches and didn’t feel like proper Tests. I didn’t take much satisfaction from either one of them and the sooner they’re forgotten the better.”

Eighteen of the 41 meetings have taken place this century, England achieving back-to-back wins under Clive Woodward but only one success since, the 38-21 victory in 2012 against a team compromised by sickness. The litany of misery includes a 32-6 home thrashing in 2008 in which Lee Mears, James Haskell, Toby Flood and Tom Rees were all yellow-carded.

“Two of the best sides in the world in front of a full house but one of those sides had no interest in playing,” said referee Alain Rolland scathingly. “I don’t think I ever encountered that level of wilful negativity before… neither had I been confronted by such a blatant unwillingness to cooperate.”

Toby Flood high-tackles Jimmy Cowan, 2008

Flood barrier: Toby Flood’s high tackle on Jimmy Cowan saw him sin-binned in 2008 (AFP/Getty Images)

Rolland was unhappy with England captain Steve Borthwick but time rolls on and this weekend Borthwick is part of Eddie Jones’s coaching team preparing to add another chapter to this fascinating, long-running squabble.

Following the aborted fixture of 2017, which failed to materialize because the countries couldn’t agree terms, Saturday’s clash will be only the second meeting since 2014.

Thorny Encounters: A History of England v The All Blacks also features contributions from ex-England internationals Mike Slemen, Nigel Redman and Phil de Glanville, and is published by Pitch, RRP £19.99. Click here to buy a copy.

We have six copies to give away in a competition. For your chance to win one, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Thursday 28 November.

England v New Zealand, 2018

Perfect start: England strike early against New Zealand in 2018 – but who is the try-scorer? (Getty Images)

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Terms and conditions

The competition closes at 11.59am on Thursday 28 November 2019.

Six winners will be selected at random, each receiving a copy of the book ’Thorny Encounters: A History of England v The All Blacks’.

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