Beware the great white Orcs
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As a New Zealander living in the UK, I look forward with huge anticipation to the tests between the All Blacks and England - and this forthcoming series is no exception.
The English side has been quietly building solid player depth under the pragmatic, but extremely astute, Stuart Lancaster and should not be taken lightly during the first test this weekend.
On paper it looks like a weakened side, but in reality this first test probably represents England's best opportunity to win.
They are fresh, well-prepared and have everything to gain.
The players are pushing for regular test spots and want to show Lancaster what they are capable of. As a result, I expect they will be very dangerous.
I watch many of these players week in and week out in the premiership and Heineken Cup competitions and their professionalism and attitude has come on significantly over the last four or so years. Their physicality has improved immeasurably and a lot of this has to do with the influx of overseas players, many of whom hail from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
As such, the English players are used to going toe-to-toe with these strong muscular runners and are therefore far more comfortable with the physical aspects when they come up against the All Blacks.
This global game has levelled the playing field somewhat and this was never more clearly demonstrated in the last two meetings between these sides.
I had the pleasure of watching both of the Twickenham tests (pleasure from purely a rugby viewpoint) and I have never seen an English team play with such freedom, ambition and execution as they did for 120 minutes of both encounters.
They have adopted an attitude of wanting to play with the ball in hand from almost anywhere on the park and now have the players who can execute that approach. On that November in 2012 you could have reversed the jerseys for the English were playing like the All Blacks. We only just held off their challenge last year!
England are peaking towards their home World Cup and we need to be cautious.
The press has to be respectful as well and players being wrongly named or positions being noted incorrectly simply adds to the siege mentality which these England boys are adopting.
Our game is professional and as such training methods, video analysis, and good old fashioned flattery allow teams to catch-up to the very high standards our All Blacks set much more quickly than in previous eras.
Should the All Blacks win? Well, form, analysis and stats say they should – but then again we said that in 2012 and look how that ended.
Kia kaha, boys.
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