The All Blacks will arrive at Twickenham tomorrow surrounded in more mystique and hype than ever before. The black shirts with the silver fern have always been met with respect around the world - but this current New Zealand side may be the most fearsome ever.
As Stuart Lancaster’s men gear up for the first of their autumn internationals this year, they may want to look away from these incredible All Blacks stats.
1. Feeling optimistic for England? Be warned, history advises caution...
New Zealand have beaten England in more than 80 per cent of their meetings to date, having won 31 of their 39 meetings with the Red Rose.
2. But England aren’t alone...
In fact, no country in the world has a positive win percentage against the men in black. South Africa come closest , having won 39 per cent of their meetings.
If it’s any modicum of comfort for England; Argentina, Scotland and Ireland have never once been able to get the better of the Kiwis.
3. The world’s best players officially come from the small island at the foot of the pacific...
Since the International Rugby Board first began its Player of the Year award, six winners from 13 have come from New Zealand. Two-time winner Dan Carter will be missing from the All Blacks this weekend, but captain Richie McCaw - who has won the award three times - will be present, as will current holder Kieran Read.
Players from New Zealand have been nominated for the award 20 times since 2001. England has received six nominations.
4. But as impressive as their past may be, the All Blacks’ present could be even better…
Since lifting the World Cup in 2011, Richie McCaw’s men have a jaw-dropping win percentage of 92.3 per cent. 39 games have brought 35 wins, two draws and two losses.
The current All Black crop have acquired a taste for silverware since that World Cup triumph on home soil, having won three consecutive Rugby Championships and three consecutive Bledisloe Cups.
The side coached by Steve Hansen now has the target of becoming the first team to win back-to-back World Cups when the tournament comes to these shores next year. In this form, you wouldn’t bet against them.
5. The All Blacks score more than any other major rugby nation...
Skillful in tight areas, devastating on the counter-attack, the All Blacks’ dominance is built from their unmatched ability with the ball in hand. New Zealand have scored 144 tries since the world cup, more than any other major rugby nation.
With 1271 points amassed over 39 games, the current All Blacks side average 32.9 points per game. In their 30 games since the World Cup, England have an average of 24 points per game.
6. And the All Blacks’ most lethal players are playing against England…
The seven backs selected by coach Steve Hansen for the match at Twickenham have collectively scored more tries since the World Cup than England as a team put together.
At an average of 27 games per player, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Julian Savea, Ben Smith and Israel Dagg have scored 74 tries between them.
In 30 games, England have scored 64.
7. Sonny Bill Williams…
One of those players, Sonny Bill Williams, has only just returned from a two year hiatus playing rugby league in Australia. Yet already he looks back at home in the black jersey.
New Zealand’s blockbuster centre (Williams has won the country's boxing heavyweight belt as well as playing in both codes of rugby) scored two tries in the All Blacks’ 74 - 6 demolition of the USA in Chicago last week. He now has a record of eight tries in 20 international matches.
At six foot, three inches and 17 stone, England centre Kyle Eastmond is going to have his work cut out tomorrow.
8. Even their reserves are pretty special…
Yet even beyond the XV selected to start on Saturday, the All Blacks’ side is packed to the brim with talent.
Take Beauden Barrett for example. The 23-year-old is arguably Hansen’s third choice fly-half behind Aaron Cruden and the legendary Carter, yet in any other team in the world he’d surely be further up the pecking order.
Barrett was the second highest points scorer in the Super Rugby domestic competition last season. The speedy no. 10, who can also play at inside centre, scored some impressive tries along the way to his 209 points.
He's pretty good at stopping tries too:
Alongside emerging talent such as Barrett, the All Blacks have a wealth of experience to add nouse to their game.
McCaw is the third-most capped rugby union player of all time with 134 caps, while hooker Keven Mealamu on the All Blacks’ bench is fifth.
The All Blacks' starting XV on Saturday has 759 caps between them, compared to England’s 359. It's going to be a baptism of fire for England debutant Semesa Rokoduguni.
So that’s it then? England should just pack up and go home? Of course not. The All Blacks can and have been beaten. South Africa did so just four weeks ago.
The only other side to beat them since the 2011 World Cup? You probably don’t need reminding it was Stuart Lancaster’s England who proved with a rambunctious performance in December 2012 that if you can unsettle the All Blacks early on, they can be thrown off their usual swaggering style.
Whatever happens, it’s going to be quite a spectacle.