England cavalry must take charge in Dunedin

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:03 11/06/2014
Owen Farrell
Getty

NEW ARRIVALS: England first-five Owen Farrell believes he and his team-mates can beat the All Blacks on Saturday.

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With expectations well exceeded, the only acceptable step forward for England's cavalry is to level the series in Dunedin.

Anything less and the series is gone. That's the harsh reality.

"If we lose we're out," first five-eighth Owen Farrell said, summing up England's lofty collective aims.

Frustration and disappointment has been parked as the tight-knit group attempt to harness the positives from their heartbreaking 20-15 loss at Eden Park. And there were plenty.

The English scrum, in particular, flexed its muscle at times. Luring the All Blacks into kicking on 33 occasions - eight more than England - was also a victory of sorts.

"It was a really good battle - there were a couple of times we got the upper hand but that wasn't until late in the second half," prop Joe Marler said of his side's scrummaging efforts.

The so-called English second-stringers were supposed to be blown away.

Now, with 16 Premiership finalists bolstering their 47-strong squad, those selected this week need to maintain the swagger.

Many of the incoming incumbents will want to better the performance of those who filled in. That intense competition has brought an added edge to training in Auckland, where England have set-up camp.

Managing the discontent of those who are overlooked, poses a real challenge for management but the fresh brigade will hope to provide the clinical finishing touches to break the All Blacks' 15-match winning run and force a decider in Hamilton.

"One of the good things about the guys that weren't involved in the weekend is they can help lift the boys because there's the challenge of competition and they didn't experience the loss," Marler said.

"We're confident if we can fine tune a few things we can push the All Blacks even closer."

Of the personnel changes, most interest will centre on a probable new halves pairing.

Farrell, a surprising nomination for 2012 IRB player of the year alongside Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Frederic Michalak, is expected to regain the No 10 jersey from Freddie Burns.

And, despite taking longer to recover than initially expected, first-choice halfback Danny Care is in contention to form his influential partnership with Farrell.

"I played with Danny for the first time in the Six Nations and loved it. He's a world-class player, who takes any chance that comes to him," the 24-test Saracens pivot said.

"He can make something out of nothing. To be able to play off the back of that is huge."

To take the next step, the English must grasp the ability to close out a test.

It's no good playing with vigour, aggression, passion and accuracy for 78-minutes, only to concede a match-winning try at the death.

The All Blacks, even when not close to their best, have consistently displayed the ability to secure the desired result in the dying stages.

"Be patient," Farrell identified as a key mental shift this week. "A try takes only 30 seconds to be scored. It can be done before or after the 80-minutes is up.

"It's about not panicking and making sure when you get in the right parts of the field you take your chances.

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"We've got a huge sense of self-belief in our team. We back ourselves against anybody. We've got to learn from every situation we get put in and we've been doing that over the last two years."

- Stuff

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