Culture clash looms at Twickenham
“STYLES MAKE fights” is usually the talk of boxing promoters but it could prove true of England’s long-awaited clash against world champions New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
England coach Eddie Jones has often insisted that trying to play the All Blacks at their own running from deep, passing game is a recipe for defeat, so the Australian is likely to again champion the team’s strengths of a powerful forward pack and solid set piece.
And All Blacks coach Steve Hansen accepted there would be merit in the home side playing to their strengths.
“There’s a lot of talk about southern hemisphere rugby being very free-flowing with a lot of tries scored, but in this part of the world, maybe because the environment is different, the weather is different, there is a necessity to play a tighter game,” said Hansen.
However, the experienced Jones also knows the virtue of adaptability.
It was a trait England, then coached by Stuart Lancaster, showed in the last of just their seven wins over the All Blacks six years ago. Leading 12-0 at the break courtesy of four Owen Farrell penalties, they ran in three second-half tries through Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi in a 38-21 triumph.
Dashing wing Ashton will make his first Test start in four years but the injury-prone Tuilagi’s long wait for an England recall has been delayed again by a groin problem.
The Twickenham clash is the highlight of another bumper weekend of autumn internationals, with Europe hosting a total of six games.
Psychological one-upmanship will be up for grabs when Wales host Australia on Saturday in a dress rehearsal of what has been billed a pooldeciding match at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The two sides will clash on September 29, 2019, at Tokyo Stadium in what many reckon will be the game that decides the winner of a Pool D that also includes Fiji, Georgia and Uruguay.
So there is all to play for at Cardiff ’s Principality Stadium, not least to boost confidence levels and test squads’ strength in depth.
A one-off Test is always important but when France and South Africa line up in Paris on Saturday, winning on the night will not be the only item on the agenda.
Like Wales and Australia, both sides already have one eye on the next World Cup and attempting to find a way to challenge the All Blacks.
Six Nations Grand Slam champions Ireland host Argentina in a one-off Test at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.
The Irish will see this as a tough examination ahead of next week’s clash of the top two sides in the world: themselves and New Zealand.
A calf problem has ruled Italy captain Sergio Parisse out of the team for Saturday’s Test against Georgia in Florence.
Italy coach Conor O’Shea has reshuffled his pack with Bram Steyn taking the 35-year-old flanker’s place.
Winger Chris Ashton, an England scorer against the All Blacks in 2012, is back on Saturday.