Thursday, 4 November 2010
New Zealand go into Saturday's Hillary Shield clash at Twickenham with England in the rare position of having to react to a defeat.
The All Blacks juggernaut had won their previous 15 Tests until they were undone in the dying minutes of their Bledisloe Cup match with Australia last week. But they enter their European tour with records galore still to protect.
They haven't lost to England in eight matches and are undefeated in their last 19 matches in the UK, France, Ireland and Italy.
The selection of hulking centre Sonny Bill Williams has really captured the attention. The rugby league convert adapted quickly to union life in his two years with Toulon in France.
Despite playing just seven games for Canterbury since returning to his homeland, coach Graham Henry has no qualms about unleashing his power against the teak tough and wily Mike Tindall, and Williams' former New Zealand rugby league team-mate Shontayne Hape.
The naturalised English centre will surely have mixed emotions lining up against the haka, having performed it himself 14 times in a Kiwi jersey. The Bath player has warned his team-mates of the danger of 'poking the bear', advising that the Maori tradition must be respected and antagonising the New Zealand players will only come back to haunt them.
New Zealand's utter dominance in this fixture can be linked to the rise of Dan Carter to the world's best fly-half. He is now just 51 points behind Jonny Wilkinson's world record Test points tally, a figure he is likely to eclipse this autumn as the England man is out for a month with a shoulder injury.
The talismanic fly-half has scored 20 points or more in half of New Zealand's eight straight wins over the English and he racked up an historic 26 point haul at Twickenham in 2006.
Two other All Blacks stand on the cusp of history. Captain Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina will both win their 91st caps at Twickenham, putting them one short of Sean Fitzpatrick's All Blacks record.
• This is the 34th meeting between these sides. New Zealand have won 26 times, England six and there has been one draw.
• England won back-to-back matches against New Zealand in November 2002 and June 2003.
• But they have lost their last eight matches against the All Blacks.
• In their 28 matches since losing the 2007 World Cup final, England have managed just 12 victories.
• England have lost eight of their last 16 matches at Twickenham.
• Their victory in Sydney in June was only their third win in Australia.
• The All Blacks suffered their first defeat in 15 matches when they lost 26-24 to Australia last Saturday.
• Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina will win their 91st caps at Twickenham, one short of Sean Fitzpatrick's All Blacks record.
• Dan Carter averages more points a game against England - 18.87 - than any other Six Nations or Tri-Nations rival. He has scored 151 points in eight matches against them.
England: 15-Ben Foden, 14-Chris Ashton, 13-Mike Tindall 12-Shontayne Hape, 11-Mark Cueto, 10-Toby Flood, 9-Ben Youngs; 1-Andrew Sheridan, 2-Steve Thompson, 3-Dan Cole, 4-Courtney Lawes, 5-Tom Palmer, 6-Tom Croft 7-Lewis Moody (captain), 8-Nick Easter.
Replacements: 16-Dylan Hartley, 17-David Wilson, 18-David Attwood, 19-Hendre Fourie, 20-Danny Care, 21-Charlie Hodgson, 22-Delon Armitage.
New Zealand: 15-Mils Muliaina, 14-Joe Rokocoko, 13-Sonny Bill Williams, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Hosea Gear, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Alby Mathewson; 1-Tony Woodcock, 2-Keven Mealamu, 3-Owen Franks, 4-Brad Thorn, 5-Sam Whitelock, 6-Jerome Kaino, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 8-Kieran Read.
Replacements: 16-Hika Elliot, 17-Ben Franks, 18-Anthony Boric, 19-Liam Messam, 20-Andy Ellis, 21-Stephen Donald, 22-Isaia Toeava.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Touch judges: Stuart Dickinson (Australia) & David Changleng (Scotland)
TV: Giulio de Santis (Italy)