Tour of New Zealand: England travel to Eden Park for first All Blacks Test
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92
Last Updated: 07/06/14 7:54am
Stuart Lancaster faces the sternest test since taking over as England head coach in 2011 as he prepares his squad for Saturday’s first Test against the All Blacks in Auckland.
History does not favour England, who have prevailed just twice on New Zealand soil in 12 attempts, while the All Blacks are unbeaten in 31 and have not lost at Eden Park since 1994.
Lancaster will aim to draw heart from England’s superb performance at Twickenham in 2012 where they powered to a 38-21 victory courtesy of tries from Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi, as well as 17 points from the boot of Owen Farrell.
That said, only six players who started that December afternoon will line-up for England on Saturday, while All Blacks coach Steven Hansen retains 11 players in a starting XV boasting 779 international caps.
"It's certainly a big challenge we're facing, but there'll be no excuses because the side we've got is an experienced and good one,” Lancaster said.
"I certainly think we need to earn the respect of the All Blacks, not just as a group of players but as a nation, and that will only happen at the end of the third Test. This is an important start."
England’s most recent meeting with the All Blacks, at Twickenham in November 2013, saw them threaten to derail New Zealand, but ultimately they could not stop Hansen’s side completing a remarkable unbeaten season.
"This England side can do some things better than we can,” claimed Hansen. “We need to make sure we improve in those areas.
"We expect them to turn up; they've clearly got confidence in who they are and what they're doing. Their environment seems to be one of 'keep quiet, get on and do the work', and that makes them dangerous."
Despite Lancaster’s limited resources, Hansen has refused to show any mercy with a potent and experienced starting line-up.
IRB International Player of the Year Kieran Read has been ruled out through injury, though, his replacement at No 8, Jerome Kaino, already has 48 caps.
A relapse of concussion symptoms have kept Read out of action, paving the way for Blues’ loose forward Kaino to join captain Richie McCaw and Liam Messam in the back row.
Israel Dagg teams up with Ben Smith and Corey Jane in a potent back three with Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith combining in midfield, while Aaron Cruden starts at fly-half as Dan Carter’s sabbatical continues.
Highly-rated centre Malakai Fekitoa could make his debut from the bench, with uncapped duo Patrick Tuipulotu and TJ Perenara also named as replacements.
Lancaster is without his Northampton Saints and Saracens representatives following last weekend’s Aviva Premiership final, but still manages to field a strong side.
Six Nations Player of the Championship Mike Brown retains the full-back jersey and Chris Robshaw leads the team from flanker, although their Harlequins team-mate Danny Care is a late withdrawal after sustaining a shoulder injury.
Care is replaced by Leicester Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs, who will partner Gloucester’s Freddie Burns after he saw off competition from Danny Cipriani to take the No 10 berth.
Bath’s Kyle Eastmond joins Tuilagi in the centres with Marland Yarde and Jonny May taking to the flanks, while there is a recall for Wasps flanker James Haskell who joins Robshaw and Ben Morgan in the pack.
All Blacks: 15 Dagg; 14 B Smith, 13 C Smith, 12 Nonu, 11 Jane; 10 Cruden, 9 A Smith; 1 Woodcock, 2 Coles, 3 Franks; 4 Retallick, 5 Whitelock; 6 Messam, 7 McCaw (capt); 8 Kaino
Replacements: 16 Mealamu, 17 Crockett, 18 Faumuina, 19 Tuipulotu, 20 Vito, 21 Perenara, 22 Barrett, 23 Fekitoa
England: 15 Brown; 14 Yarde, 13 Tuilagi, 12 Eastmond, 11 May; 10 Burns, 9 Youngs; 1 Marler, 2 Webber, 3 Wilson; 4 Launchbury, 5 Parling; 6 Haskell, 7 Robshaw (capt); Morgan
Replacements: 16 Gray, 17 Mullan, 18 Thomas, 19 Attwood, 20 Johnson, 21 Dickson, 22 Cipriani, 23 Pennell
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