Thursday, June 12, 2014

England face their toughest Test

Pardon me the cynicism, but who won the first Test?
Not England although if you had the misfortune to be stuck in England with only newspapers and websites to read you would have thought the Poms had hanged, drawn and quartered the All Blacks at Eden Park last weekend.

Now, with their A team on board, the popular view of England's press, who never have to play these games, will be that the win will surely be achieved in Dunedin on Saturday night.

England are ready to make a series of it.

Coupla things to think about.

The All Blacks will not be so far off the mark as they were in Auckland this time around.

Nothing quite focuses the All Blacks' minds more than a below par performance. Their ability, their manhood, their right to wear the jersey has been questioned. Not challenges to be issued lightly by visitors.

Dry ground in Dunedin. Now there is no doubt the Pom backs are well capable of throwing the ball around to good effect. Even when England were thrashed by the All Blacks in the 1995 World Cup semi-final in Cape Town they still managed to score four tries. Whether their backs of the moment are as good as Rory Underwood, Will Carling and Jeremy Guscott is another matter.

But the difference for New Zealand lies in the ball-handling of the forwards. Here there is an ocean of ability between the sides and the tide runs in favour of the home team.

And Manu Tuilagi, bullocking runner that he is. He has been compared to Jonah Lomu! He's not even in the same home straight as the legendary wing.

Wonder how Tuilagi goes at turning around to tidy up kicks behind him?

The big question is how long it will take either of the Aarons, Smith or Cruden, to sort that one out? I'm picking it will be very early in the piece. Mind you, some thinking outside the box, pardon the pun – older readers will understand that quip – could be not to send a kick his way at all, so that he is left wondering when it is going to come.

Then there's the need to field high kicks. Whenever this thought process is involved it is hard not to go past: possums, headlights, Quade Cooper, Richard Kahui, World Cup semi-final in 2011, if you get my drift.

Some predictions for the game: the haka will be questioned yet again by the Pom media (after all these years they still don't get it)
, the game will be all-action, the referee will be the target of English media criticism win or lose, some England player will do something silly under the pressure of the occasion, Owen Farrell will struggle with goal-kicking in the stadium, Liam Messam will be much more obvious around the track and Jerome Kaino will be an even greater target for England attention than Richie McCaw, who will revel in the subsequent freedom.

It should be a cracker.

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