The All Blacks are the only team in rugby to transcend the sport so, for many of England’s squad, tomorrow’s match will feel bigger than the visit of world champions South Africa next weekend.
When the All Blacks are in town it’s more than about 80 minutes of rugby; it’s the heritage, the history, the Haka. On Saturday at Twickenham every England player will want to raise their game to match their opponents.
It hasn’t been a stellar year for New Zealand. They’ve struggled much more than usual but, despite that, won the Rugby Championship and are thus far unbeaten on their northern tour. They snuck past Japan with a slightly depleted squad before beating Wales and Scotland.
I think England will win tomorrow. If so, it would be the first time they have beaten the All Blacks in consecutive matches since 2003.
They haven’t met since that infamous 2019 World Cup semi-final, which some have called England’s best ever performance. But Jones can’t draw on that display here because both sides are so different now.
After England lost to Argentina at the start of the month I feared the wheels completely falling off just a year out from the World Cup. The team bounced back against Japan last week but the proper Tests begin now.
I back England to win it because I don’t see the leadership in the New Zealand ranks that has rallied them over the last couple of decades.
They have awesome players such as Ardie Savea but they don’t have a Richie McCaw, Dan Carter or Kieran Reed to call upon when they need that final percentage of motivation.
It’s always a privilege to watch the All Blacks, but I hope England spoil the party and begin a proper run of positive results tomorrow.
England chiefs should scrap residency rule
The downfall of Worcester and Wasps has led to some of their former players moving to France and further afield.
It got me thinking. I don’t think the Rugby Football Union will do it, but they should consider scrapping the rules that prevent those playing abroad from appearing for England.
My time at Stade Francais made me as a player. I think I’d have plateaued had I stayed in the Premiership, and I became the Top14’s Overseas Player of the Year while in France.
The likes of Dan Robson’s move to Pau and Jacob Umaga’s to Benetton will allow them to add dimensions to their game which they wouldn’t in England.
We’ve seen how good Zach Mercer has been at Montpellier, so why hasn’t he been picked for England? The No8 will return to England next summer and will be replaced at the French champions by fellow Englishman Sam Simmonds.
Players should play wherever they want and there shouldn’t be a restriction on trade.