Battling England quick to claim underdog tag

DAVID LONG IN LONDON
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012
Andy Farrell
Getty Images
ANDY FARRELL: "They're [All Blacks] the best team in the world because of the time that they've all done together."

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In the days when Sir Clive Woodward was the coach of England, the arrogance on display was preposterous.

His ability to talk his team up and exude supreme confidence in defiance of common sense that his side could beat the All Blacks may have been ridiculous, but it also worked.

Woodward remains the last coach to defeat the All Blacks on a northern hemisphere tour, when they beat John Mitchell's under-strength side 31-28 in 2002.

For all his faults as a coach, which were exposed when he took the Lions to New Zealand three years later, what he did so well was give his players belief that the All Blacks aren't superhuman, and that they can be defeated at Twickenham.

For the England team of 2012, it appears they already know they can't win this weekend.

Interspersed with cliches about fronting up and getting momentum from the players and coaches at the team's media session at their hotel in Bagshot yesterday, were constant reminders that the All Blacks are the world champions, that they're ranked No 1 in the world and that they can play to levels no-one else can reach.

England come into this weekend's test on the back of close defeats to the Wallabies and Springboks and hardly anyone over here is giving them much of a chance of their losing streak not increasing to three.

England are a young side, being built by head coach Stuart Lancaster and his assistant, Andy Farrell.

Certainly, they are a team for the future and have a number of exciting players but there is a touch of envy from Farrell when he looks at all the experience in the All Blacks squad.

"You look at their leadership group and it has been the backbone of the team," Farrell said.

"Conrad Smith, Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Piri Weepu and whoever, they're the guys that will be steering the ship in the week and on the field.

"You can see how they play composure wise, some of these guys are 90, 100 [test caps] and I would think it's a brilliant place to be at this moment in time. They're the best team in the world because of the time that they've all done together."

One thing that could be in England's favour this weekend is that there is no pressure on them. They were expected to beat Australia and South Africa and got savaged by the media and public for failing.

On Sunday morning they can afford to be plucky England, throw the ball around and chance their arm, because there's little to lose.

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"We've got it in us to take our game to New Zealand," Farrell said. "They're playing some outstanding stuff but we have a champion's attitude that you can knock over champions on the way - that's what we've got to make sure we have."

- Fairfax Media

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