Culture clash looms as England face All Blacks

Eddie Jones (Getty)
Eddie Jones (Getty)

London - "Styles make fights" is usually the talk of boxing promoters but it could prove true of England's long-awaited clash against world champions New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday. 

England coach Eddie Jones has often insisted that trying to play the All Blacks at their own running from deep, passing game is a recipe for defeat, with the Australian championing the traditional Red Rose strengths of a powerful forward pack and solid set piece. 

And All Blacks coach Steve Hansen accepted there was more than one way to win a game. 

"Southern hemisphere rugby - there's a lot of talk about Super Rugby, it's very free-flowing with a lot of tries scored, but in this part of the world, maybe because the environment is different, the weather is different, there is a necessity to play a tighter game," said Hansen. 

"I'm certainly not bragging about it," added the former Wales boss. 

"We have natural athletes who want to run and carry the ball and pass the ball." 

The experienced Jones also knows the virtues of adaptability. 

It was a trait England, then coached by Stuart Lancaster, showed in the last of just their seven wins over the All Blacks six years ago when, leading 12-0 at the break courtesy of four Owen Farrell penalties, they ran in three second-half tries through Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi in a 38-21 triumph. 

Dashing wing Ashton is now set to make his first Test start in four years but the injury-prone Tuilagi's long wait for an England recall has been delayed again by a groin problem. 

Flyhalf Farrell has found himself in the spotlight after escaping any action for a seemingly illegal shoulder charge in the closing stages of an unconvincing 12-11 win over South Africa at Twickenham last weekend with which England launched their November campaign. 

But former Wallaby and Japan boss Jones insisted Farrell required the kind of protection referees routinely afforded by match officials to Ireland No 10 Jonathan Sexton. 

"If he was Sexton then we'd be able to complain about him, but because he's Owen Farrell he's allowed to be hit late," said Jones. He's tough so he gets up and he plays. 

"He's a tough rooster, a warrior. He puts his body on the line, he doesn't play in a dinner suit." 

Ashton, 31, who came off the bench against the Springboks, has scored 19 tries in a 40-cap England career interrupted by suspensions and spending a season with French giants Toulon. 

"That try-scoring skill is nothing coached," said Jones. 

"Guys like that, the only thing you can do is stuff them up by coaching them." 

Free rein is something that comes naturally to an All Blacks side where fullback Damian McKenzie will act as a 'second playmaker' to star flyhalf Beauden Barrett in a first-choice team featuring Sonny Bill Williams and Jack Goodhue in midfield. 

"We think against sides that play a little differently than we do, having two playmakers makes it a lot harder for them to shut us down," said Hansen whose side, fresh from victories over Australia and Japan, find themselves in their familiar role of favourites. 

For all their ball-playing skill, few New Zealand sides have lacked physical presence and a team captained by No 8 Kieran Read will look to make an impact up front. 

It all makes for an intriguing clash fewer than 12 months out from the 2019 World Cup in Japan - one made all the more exciting by the fact it is four years since England last played New Zealand. 

"The old adage of less is more is probably a good thing," said Hansen. "Would we be so excited about playing England if we were playing twice a year, every year? - maybe not. 

"But we haven't played them in four years and everyone is on the edge of their seat, can't wait."

Players to watch:

For England: The consensus is that the Red Rose will need to score tries to get close to New Zealand and in Chris Ashton they have one of the best in the business. The Sale Sharks wing made a positive impression on his return to the side last weekend – his first appearance in a white shirt for four years - and they will look for more of that on Saturday. Ashton seemed to have license to roam against South Africa, producing a couple of nice passes to open space on the outside, and his ability to track the ball and potential breaks from team-mates will be a threat should England get on the front foot.

For New Zealand: Most of the All Blacks' qualities are well known but it will be a first chance to see Jack Goodhue on European soil after impressing in the Rugby Championship. The Crusaders centre is a huge talent and was instrumental in the franchise's back-to-back Super Rugby triumphs. Goodhue reads the game incredibly well and, in the mould of Conrad Smith, often makes the right decision, but the 23-year-old is a better athlete than his predecessor, which makes him an exceptional prospect.

Head-to-head: England's scrum held up better than most expected last weekend, even if they were under pressure in the first-half, but facing New Zealand’s front five is even more intimating. Most of the praise that goes the All Blacks' way centres around their athleticism and skill level in the loose, but the set-piece is incredibly well drilled. That quality of coaching is displayed in prop Karl Tu'inukuafe's progress, who is a rookie in professional rugby terms let alone at international level, but it will be a huge ask for Kyle Sinckler to negate the loosehead’s power and technique. On the opposite side, Owen Franks is one of world's best scrummagers while Ben Moon only made his debut against South Africa. Should the Red Rose get parity, however, then they do have the talent behind the scrum to cause the world champions problems, but whether the hosts are competitive will depend on the set-piece.

Previous results:

2014: New Zealand won 24-21 in London
2014: New Zealand won 36-13 in Hamilton
2014: New Zealand won 28-27 in Dunedin
2014: New Zealand won 20-15 in Auckland
2013: New Zealand won 30-22 in London
2012: England won 38-21 in London
2010: New Zealand won 26-16 in London
2009: New Zealand won 19-6 in London



15 Elliot Daly, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (co-captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Brad Shields, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dylan Hartley (co-captain), 1 Ben Moon

Substitutes: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Jack Nowell

New Zealand

15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe

Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo'unga, 23 Ryan Crotty

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