England baffle All Blacks

2014-06-20 10:30
Steve Hansen (AFP)

Hamilton - The All Blacks are wondering what England will have to offer for Saturday's third Test in Hamilton as they look to crush the tourists' confidence ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup.

It's a dead rubber that still carries highly motivational elements for both sides, with the All Blacks looking to equal the world record of 17 consecutive Test victories, and England desperate to leave New Zealand with a win.

Although the All Blacks were down on the level of performance they aspire to in winning the first two Tests, it was still enough to beat a team that was ahead in both matches at half-time.

England favoured a solid set-piece and kick-chase game in the first Test and attempted to attack out wide in the second, but neither of coach Stuart Lancaster's plans worked.

"So what are they going to do now?" All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wondered.

"I have heard Stuart say in the paper that they shouldn't play too much rugby down their end. So are they going to kick it a wee bit more?"

The All Blacks' game plan has not varied, with an emphasis on moving the ball at pace and always looking for counter-attacking opportunities.

Only a couple of injury-forced changes have been made to give the team a solid, familiar look.

England, however, made five changes for the second Test and, with the late withdrawal of lock Geoff Parling, eight for the third in a wide-reaching search for the elusive win.

In a last throw of the dice to avoid a 3-0 whitewash, Lancaster was giving little away ahead of the match other than talking up England's rush defence as "clearly part of our armoury and we'll obvious try to shut the space down."

England assistant coach Andy Farrell added that their motivation was to end the season on a high and to do that they need to ensure the All Blacks "can't play at the pace that they want to play".

Kyle Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi have been reunited in the centre of a rejigged England backline and will test All Blacks rookie Malakai Fekitoa in his first Test start.

Big backrower Billy Vunipola, lock Courtney Lawes and New Zealand-born hooker Dylan Hartley have been added to bolster England's pack.

The return of backrower Kieran Read should strengthen the All Blacks' running game with his talent for lingering out wide to create opportunities for his wings.

This leaves the powerful Jerome Kaino, back in his familiar blindside role, free to mop up any problems that may arise close to the ruck.

After inconsistent performances in the first two weeks, in which the third quarter of the second Test was the only time the All Blacks were in total control, captain Richie McCaw said they wanted a complete performance in Hamilton.

"It would be horrible to go away from this three-match series saying 'Yeah, we won it but haven't performed in that last one'. That's what the driver is," McCaw said.

"We showed in that 20 minutes (of the second Test) when we started to believe in what we're doing more, and it started to happen, it shows the skills and the guys showed what they can do. It would be nice to do that for longer."

Read more on:    all blacks  |  steve hansen  |  rugby

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