All you need to know about the Test between England and New Zealand at Twickenham
Autumn Internationals: England v New Zealand preview
It’s four years since England met New Zealand, and for much of the intervening period the two sides have occupied the top two places in the world rankings.
The long delay for Eddie Jones’s first crack at the All Blacks as England boss is down to financial wrangling, with a bid to put the fixture on last year stalling because the RFU were unwilling to offer the NZRU half of the revenue.
Ireland, now No 2 in the world, tackle New Zealand next week but the sides met twice in 2016. For England, this weekend’s match ends the longest wait to face the Kiwis since 1991, when their World Cup pool meeting followed a six-year hiatus. It’s why this is the hottest ticket of the autumn.
After the captivating 12-11 defeat of South Africa last weekend, the pressure on England has eased. Few people really expect them to win this one.
England’s back-to-back successes against the Kiwis in 2002-03 are a distant memory as the world’s greatest rugby nation has reasserted itself in the fixture. Even the one blip, in 2012, occurred after a debilitating virus had swept through the All Blacks camp.
When Jones received his World Rugby Coach of the Year award in Monte Carlo in 2017, he said: “I must admit I feel a bit embarrassed. We’re not the number one team in the world. Steve Hansen should be up here but someone has judged it another way. Until we’re number one we’ve got nothing to crow about.”
Hansen’s men head to Twickenham on the back of a sixth Rugby Championship title in seven years and last weekend’s ten-try saunter against Japan in Tokyo. The last time they were at Twickenham for a capped Test was to retain the World Cup.
If England can win on Saturday, they will certainly have something to crow about.
What’s the big team news?
Chris Ashton makes his first England start since the 2014 tour to New Zealand. The Sale wing, who returned to the Premiership this season from France in order to be eligible for selection, replaces Jack Nowell and will relish the chance to build on a significant impact off the bench last weekend. Ashton has scored 19 tries in 40 Tests.
“You watch that last 15 minutes of the Springboks game,” said Paul Grayson on 5 Live, “and Chris Ashton could have scored a hat-trick if other people had understood where he wants to end up getting the ball. His support lines are a joy to behold. He’s got some frailties but if you’re going to pick a man to score you a try, Ashton is very high on the list.”
Ben Moon, also impressive against the Boks, starts ahead of Exeter team-mate Alec Hepburn, while Tom Curry’s ankle injury opens the door for Bath’s Sam Underhill to fill the seven shirt.
Underhill’s chop-tackle expertise will be a welcome addition to the mix after England failed to prevent South Africa winning the gain-line battle emphatically.
Courtney Lawes has recovered from a back injury and gets a place on the bench at the expense of Zach Mercer, who can consider himself unlucky.
Among those with plenty to prove is Elliot Daly, who makes his fifth consecutive start at full-back. He may be a British Lion but he was unconvincing under the high ball last week and made some poor decisions in attack, twice failing to pass to the man in space. An improved performance would be opportune.
Regardless of how Daly fares against Beauden Barrett’s kicking game, the absence of Alex Goode from the squad remains an enigma. Chris Pennell, one of the best 15s of recent years, said on BT’s Rugby Tonight on Tour show: “Alex has been the in-form full-back for the last three seasons. His change of pace, his footwork, is outstanding.
“His background as a fly-half earlier in his career means he’s got so much time on the ball and he picks the right option 99 times out of 100. I just think he’s class.”
New Zealand make seven changes to the side that beat Australia in Tokyo a fortnight ago. Their only hiccup is the loss of loosehead Joe Moody after he sustained a lacerated eyelid during a lineout lift in training. Karl Tu’inukuafe, the find of the year, deputises.
Elsewhere, the gloriously exciting Damian McKenzie gets another opportunity at proving he warrants the No 15 shirt permanently, while Sonny Bill Williams partners Jack Goodhue in midfield for only the second time.
That means Ryan Crotty must settle for a place on the bench, where his comrades include hooker Dane Coles, whose run-out in Tokyo last Saturday was his first Test outing for a year following a knee ligament rupture and other issues.
What have the coaches said?
Eddie Jones said: “The expectation for Saturday is no different to any other Test match. We want to be at our best, better than we were in the previous Test match, and we want to play with pride and passion which ignites the fan.
“It’s been a good week; the players have recovered well, trained well on Tuesday, exceptionally well on Wednesday. We don’t think we’re underdogs. We don’t look at the bookmakers. All we know is that we can beat New Zealand.
“I think playing against them suits Chris Ashton – it’s just a gut feeling. He can sniff a try. He’s great at running inside support lines and there might be a few opportunities there.”
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said: “There’s huge anticipation at what lies ahead. We know we’ll be up against a very determined and well-coached English side. They’ll have gained a lot of confidence from their win over South Africa and be keen to make a statement in front of their passionate Twickenham home crowd.
“However, for us it’s about making our own statement. To do that, we’ll need to bring our own intensity and accuracy to an even higher level throughout the game. It’s a great opportunity to assess where our game is at.
“Having two playmakers (Barrett and McKenzie) makes it a lot harder for England to shut us down. It also takes away the frustration of that person who is shut down, because you have someone else taking a bit of the heat.”
The game falls on the centenary remembrance of Armistice Day (see details below) and Hansen added: “Whenever we play with the poppy the stories of why it’s there are talked about. It does give it an extra emotional hit. When you get these big Test matches you don’t need too much of a wind-up to be ready, but it is significant.”
Any interesting statistics?
* England have lost all but one of their previous 15 meetings with New Zealand, the exception being the stirring 38-21 victory of 2012.
* The countries have played each other 40 times, with 32 wins to the All Blacks, seven to England and one draw. The most recent Test was in November 2014 at Twickenham, which the All Blacks won 24-21. George Kruis made his England debut that day.
* Locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock will be playing their 49th Test together, equalling the All Blacks’ starting locks partnership record set by Robin Brooke and Ian Jones.
* The teams will be contesting the Hillary Shield for the tenth time. The trophy, named in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary, was introduced in 2008.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
The match at Twickenham kicks off at 3pm UK time on Saturday and is live on Sky Sports. There will also be live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and online.
The referee is Frenchman Jérôme Garcès, who sent off Sonny Bill Williams during the second Test of the 2017 New Zealand-Lions series.
His assistant referees for this match are Jaco Peyper (South Africa) and Marius Mitrea (Italy), with South Africa’s Marius Jonker fulfilling TMO duties.
What are the line-ups?
ENGLAND Elliot Daly; Chris Ashton, Henry Slade, Ben Te’o, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (co-capt), Ben Youngs; Ben Moon, Dylan Hartley (co-capt), Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Brad Shields, Sam Underhill, Mark Wilson.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Jack Nowell.
NEW ZEALAND Damian McKenzie; Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Karl Tu’inukuafe, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read (capt).
Replacements 16 Dane Coles 17 Ofa Tuungafasi 18 Nepo Laulala 19 Scott Barrett 20 Matt Todd 21 TJ Perenara 22 Richie Mo’unga 23 Ryan Crotty.
This weekend marks the centenary of the end of World War One. The 131 international rugby players who lost their lives in the Great War included 27 England and 13 New Zealand players and they will be remembered on Saturday.
The teams will wear poppies on their shirts and, as they take the field, they will cross the spot where soil from former England captain and centre Ronnie Poulton’s grave at the Royal Berkshire Cemetery in Belgium was buried before the Army v Navy match in May. The spot is now permanently marked and is unveiled this week to coincide with the centenary.
The official match-day charity is the Royal British Legion (RBL). During the day England Rugby will be supporting the RBL ‘Thank you’ campaign which will appear on the LEDs and big screens, with a video shown at half-time. Poppies will be on sale around the ground.
New Zealand’s Reserve Bank has minted an Armistice Day edition of the 50-cent piece, one of which will be used in Saturday’s coin toss.
A Moment’s Silence, remembering all who served and died for their countries, will be introduced before kick-off by Lewis Moody, the RFU’s Great War Commemoration Ambassador, and The Last Post will be sounded by a Rifleman from The Band and Bugles of The Rifles.
Two of the England mascots on Saturday are descendants of players who died during the war: Max Garnett (age ten), whose father, James, is a descendant of Ronnie Poulton, and Jack Davis (nine), whose grandfather, Richard Slocock, is the grandson of Lancelot (Noel) Slocock, the lock who captained England against Scotland in 1908.
New Zealand’s military services are represented by All Black mascots Logan and Eva Till, aged nine and five respectively. Their father, Squadron Leader Ben Till, is a serving New Zealand Air Force officer whose forebears served in World War One.
Laura Wright will sing Keep the home fires burning at half-time and a special World War One display is running in the refurbished World Rugby Museum in Twickenham’s South Stand.