It’s a wipeout for Red Rose in the best team selection
OWEN Farrell, Maro Itoje and a fit Manu Tuilagi, left, are the only England players who would tempt the All Black selectors to tweak their match 23, but as things stand I do not believe any of them would make the New Zealand starting fifteen.
At fly-half Farrell is up against Beauden Barrett and there is little chance of All Black coach Steve Hansen sacrificing his regularly brilliant match-winner for the Englishman, who plays 10 and 12. Farrell is the better goal-kicker by a street, but Barrett is the catalyst in the counter-attacking game that is New Zealand's point of difference.
It is also unlikely that Farrell would oust Ryan Crotty at inside-centre, and Hansen is also a great admirer of the offloading capabilities of his other 12, Sonny Bill Williams.
Crotty is the rock in the All Blacks’ midfield defence and a highly effective cannon-ball of a carrier – but a fully fit Tuilagi as a Ma’a Nonu-style option would raise Hansen’s eyebrows.
Despite Itoje’s consistently impressive Test-match presence, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock are the best lock pairing in international rugby – and have a depth of experience that the Saracens man cannot match.
However, Itoje’s athleticism and line-out skills would interest New Zealand as a blindside rival to the fast-improving Liam Squire, although his first lesson would be to get his body position lower when he carries.
So, when it comes to the overall picture of a combined New Zealand-England team it is all black for England everywhere but on the bench.