All Blacks talk up England

2014-06-05 10:25
Aaron Cruden (Gallo)

Auckland - The All Blacks have gone to great lengths to build up England as a feared enemy, shutting out talk of Saturday's first Test being a lop-sided affair as injuries continued to plague both sides.

Scrumhalf Danny Care, one of the few experienced players in the England line up, was the latest casualty, injuring a shoulder in training and needing to pass a fitness test on Friday if he is to take the field.

England can ill-afford to lose the 47-Test veteran after naming a Test side with a combined total of just 367 caps, compared to an impressive 968 in the All Blacks.

The All Blacks have lost Kieran Read and Julian Savea to injury but have depth to call on while England's problems are compounded by having several players unavailable because they were involved in last week's Premiership decider.

But while the odds are heavily stacked in the All Blacks favour Hansen still has vivid memories of when a similarly weakened French side toured New Zealand five years ago.

They were branded France "C" and written off in all quarters yet still managed to win the first Test 27-22.

While England have been written off by the local betting agency, and the All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park since 1994, Hansen refuses to underestimate them.

"There's been a lot of talk in the media about this being a poor England side, but when you go through them they've all played internationals in the last 12 months," Hansen said.

"There are not that many changes from the last time we played them - and that was a great contest.

"I'd imagine they'll look to drive us a lot in the lineouts, look to come up the middle of the park and use switches and try and see if we've got our short-side defence sorted out, and maybe turn us around a wee bit too if its wet."

While paying his respects to England, Hansen has named a formidable starting 15 with Dane Coles preferred at hooker over Keven Mealamu, while strongman Jerome Kaino replaces Read to play his first Test since the 2011 World Cup final victory over France.

Aaron Cruden remains the first-choice flyhalf over Beauden Barrett, and with an eye to the future, Hansen named three uncapped players on the bench - lock Patrick Tuipulotu, scrum-half TJ Perenara and centre Malakai Fekitoa.

Despite the ominous look to the All Blacks, England captain Chris Robshaw sees "a huge opportunity" for his side to defy the odds.

"We're extremely proud of our squad at the moment and the team we have and the progress we've made throughout the Six Nations," he said.

"This, we feel, is the next test for us, it's come at a good stage for us and we're looking forward to just going out there."

If Care is ruled out, Ben Youngs will be promoted off the bench to partner the three-Test Freddie Burns who was preferred at flyhalf over Danny Cipriani.

Lock Geoff Parling and flank James Haskell, neither of whom have played for England in more than 12 months, have been recalled, along with powerhouse outside centre Manu Tuilagi.

Rugby league convert Kyle Eastmond will start at inside centre, replacing the injured Billy Twelvetrees, while the uncapped hooker Joe Gray and fullback Chris Pennell are on the bench.

All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu, one of five survivors from the 2009 loss to France along with Tony Woodcock, Liam Messam, Cory Jane and Mealamu, admitted he was wary of England.

"They have played really well in the last two years, especially in terms of changing their game. We will look forward to having a really good battle up front and I think their backs are pretty physical too," he said.


New Zealand:

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Cory Jane, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock

Substitutes: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Victor Vito, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Malakai Fekitoa


15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Danny Care, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 James Haskell, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Joe Marler

Substitutes: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Chris Pennell

Read more on:    all blacks  |  aaron cruden  |  rugby

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