ENGLAND’S hopes of ending the year on a high were boosted yesterday when it emerged tomorrow’s opponents New Zealand have been ravaged by the norovirus.
The winter vomiting and diarrhoea bug has affected all but two of the All Blacks squad, disrupting their preparations for the Test at Twickenham.
No8 Kieran Read said they had endured “a good tour of the bathrooms”, while coach Steve Hansen admitted the illness had made it “a difficult week”.
The debilitating virus compounded a trying few days for New Zealand, following fierce criticism of Andrew Hore’s forearm smash on Wales lock Bradley Davies last week.
Hansen revealed the players had suffered most on Wednesday but is optimistic his team will have sufficient energy to extend their 20-match unbeaten run.
“It’s been a difficult week with a lot of people being sick,” said Hansen. “We’ve had guys go down with diarrhoea and vomiting. It started in Wales and just continued right through.
“Hopefully we’ve been smart enough to keep the energy tanks full. I think there’s only two that have missed out [on the bug]. A couple of them aren’t [all right], but most of them are.”
Fly-half Dan Carter is well enough to return after injury kept him out of Saturday’s win in Cardiff, while Kevin Mealamu replaces the banned Hore and Brodie Retallick comes in for second row Luke Romano.
England coach Stuart Lancaster has warned the All Blacks that his team will draw on the pain of narrow defeats to South Africa and Australia in the last fortnight in order to finish the autumn with a victory.
Fly-half Owen Farrell replaces the injured Toby Flood, while lock Courtney Lawes returns to the bench with uncapped No10 Freddie Burns.
Lancaster said: “We felt we had put in a performance that deserved a win last week and it is about using that frustration in a positive way.”
A Goode; C Ashton, M Tuilagi, B Barritt, M Brown; O Farrell, B Youngs; A Corbisiero, T Youngs, D Cole, J Launchbury, G Parling, T Wood, C Robshaw (capt), B Morgan Replacements: D Paice, D Wilson, M Vunipola, C Lawes, J Haskell, D Care, F Burns, J Joseph