England can run the All Blacks close in final Test

Tomorrow 2.30pm

ENGLAND’s autumn international series has presented far more questions than it has answered and things could get a whole lot worse as the world champions are up next. The fallout from defeat to South Africa has only added to the pressure on England to finish off the series with a result that can act as a platform ahead of the Six Nations next year.

Much of the focus has been on captain Chris Robshaw’s decision to kick a penalty late on when England were four points down to the Springboks with just minutes to play, but more should have been made of the inability to slot two first-half kicks at goal that would have made the argument redundant.

Poor decision making has been a common factor in England’s two Tests with Australia and South Africa and leaves them staring down the barrel of a whitewash against the Tri-Nation sides.

That in itself is no great disgrace as those three rugby nations have long been regarded as the best in the world. Yet Australia and South Africa are nowhere near the quality they’ve shown in the past.

Stuart Lancaster’s preparations for the All Blacks had a setback early on when Toby Flood was ruled out of the match with a bruised foot which means that Owen Farrell is set to start at fly-half. Steve Hansen has no such problems in that department as he welcomes back No10 Dan Carter, who has shaken off an injury.

New Zealand have cruised to three comfortable victories so far and Hansen will want to sign off the season with another over the Red Rose.

Most impressive is that the past two victories, where they have racked up 75 points, have been without star man Carter. There’s no doubting his influence, but the All Blacks’ style is ingrained within the side meaning that players can slot in, like Aaron Cruden whose assured performance against Wales saw him replace Carter and kick 18 points.

It’s been nine successive internationals since England overcame the All Blacks, and it’s no surprise to see the visitors as short as 1/12 with Coral. However, the past two matches have been decided by 13 points and 10 points respectively. This will also be New Zealand’s first genuine test this autumn and they haven’t put together 80 minutes of flowing rugby yet when beating struggling Scotland, Italy and Wales.

This is the All Blacks’ 11th match in the last 16 weeks and although England will likely lose, they can run them far closer if they use their heads better. England had chances to beat both Australia and South Africa, and with a 16 point handicap, I’m happy to get with them at 10/11 with Coral.

Spread bettors are also advised to sell New Zealand’s points supremacy at 14 with Sporting Index.

■ Pointers…
England with +16 handicap at 10/11 with Coral
Sell New Zealand’s points supremacy at 14 with Sporting Index