Cape Town – England utility forward Courtney Lawes is confident they are capable of causing an upset when they host New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
Lawes was in the British and Irish Lions side that triumphed over the All Blacks in Wellington last year and was also in England’s team when they beat the world champions at Twickenham in 2012.
And although New Zealand are favourites to secure victory, Lawes feels there are weaknesses in their game which can be exploited.
“They’re not unbeatable. In a sport like this you see every week that anybody can win on any given day,” he told Sky Sports.
“I don’t even think it’s necessarily a fact that we’ve got to get lucky to win or have got to have an unbelievable day. We’ve certainly got all the quality in the team that we need.
“We just need to be able to put it together on the day, make some good decisions and bring that right intensity to get us ahead.”
When asked what England could replicate from the Lions in order to beat the All Blacks, Lawes said: “You’ve just got to execute your gameplan.
“You need to have the right intensity, and be able to have a cool enough head with that intensity to convert pressure into points, take your opportunities and ultimately put scores on the board.
“New Zealand are a great team, they’re also going to most likely score, but if you can maximise your defence and your attack then you’ve always got a good shot.”
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 center 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.
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 centers 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.
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
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