The last thing England need is to welcome a wounded New Zealand to Twickenham this Saturday. But wounded they most certainly are.
Australia's late show in Hong Kong means Richie McCaw's men will pitch up at HQ intent on making amends for the defeat they suffered thanks to James O'Connor's heroics.
If it's a chilling statistic you're after, try this on for size.The All Blacks have only lost two on the bounce three times in the last decade, and none of those incidents involve a northern hemisphere side.
The chances of England altering those numbers seem slim on the face of things. They haven't lowered the All Black flag at Twickenham since 2002 when they were building to their 2003 crescendo. But one senses the past troubles Martin Johnson about as much as a flea would a Hippo.
Johnson has selected a side with all the bristle of the team that came home from Australia with a summer tour victory. Earlier injury concerns have melted away and this is pretty much Johnson's best XV give or take a Flutey here and a Simpson-Daniel there - the former's inclusion very much depending on your opinions of the Gloucester man's talents.
So what sort of game plan can we expect to see? Talk of England's burgeoning running game, as if they have cast off the straightjacket and adopted 15-man champagne rugby, had a bucket of cold water thrown at it this week when defence coach Mike Ford scoffed at the high-scoring Tri Nations games this year.
Not Test rugby, was his assessment, indicating that if England are to beat New Zealand they'll do it playing tight, disciplined, curmudgeonly rugby, unless Ford was throwing a red herring into the mix.
The truth is it will take a bit of both. England need to match the Kiwis' voracity at the breakdown, they need to put up resolute defence around Toby Flood's channel, and they need to take their opportunities when they present themselves.
In phases of Saturday's game, Australia accomplished these elements of the game to great effect and scampered away with a victory. There was the blueprint for Johnson's men. Let's hope they were watching.
READ DANNY COYLE EVERY WEEK AT RUGBY.CO.UK
Date published :
04 Nov 2010 - 11:41:38