ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has warned his team that last year’s record victory over New Zealand will count for nothing against the same opposition at Twickenham this weekend.
The All Blacks were beaten 38-21 last December with second-half tries from Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi, while fly-half Owen Farrell was exceptional kicking from the tee.
England’s biggest ever Test win over New Zealand was also the visitors’ only defeat from their last 33 competitive matches – a run that stretches back to August 2011 and includes their World Cup triumph on home soil.
Yet Lancaster, who will be without injured prop Mako Vunipola for a second successive weekend, feels England should expect to face a much-improved New Zealand team in the final autumn international.
“It’s an unbelievable record, not just over this season but since the last World Cup,” he said. “There’s certainly been no drop off in standards since the World Cup. If anything, they’ve gone up another level. They are rightfully No1 in the world.
“It’s a different New Zealand team we’re facing this time. What happened last year is irrelevant.”
Prop Joe Marler is Lancaster’s main injury concern, after the 23-year-old suffered concussion in the weekend win over Argentina and must now undergo a mandatory rehabilitation period, as outlined by the International Rugby Board.
British and Irish Lions front-row Alex Corbisiero is set to start in Marler’s place at loosehead, while scrum-half Ben Youngs and wing Marland Yarde are expected to recover from respective hip problems in time to be available.
Wasps wing Christian Wade is “unlikely” to recover from the hamstring strain that saw him miss the win over the Pumas, according to Lancaster, who must decide whether or not to retain Ashton after the Saracens back responded to the head coach’s call to prove his class at international level with a first-half try against Argentina.