New Zealand v England, 2nd Test
England seek redemption in Dunedin
Tom Hamilton in Dunedin
June 13, 2014
Billy Twelvetrees receives a slightly bizarre welcome to Dunedin © Getty Images
There has been plenty of shadowboxing this week between the New Zealand and England camps. Last weekend's first match saw the All Blacks take a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series but it was a game where both sides fought toe-to-toe until the 78th minute when Conrad Smith scored. This weekend's Test promises to be a slightly different affair.
New Zealand are not used to being bullied on their own turf. The first Test saw England get the edge in the lineout and the scrum and for a team who value both aspects of the game highly, the Kiwis will have done a huge amount this week to ensure there is no repeat come Saturday in the Forysth-Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Much of the talk this week has revolved around the speed at which England play the game, or don't as is seemed the case by some of the local Kiwi media. England were criticised of a 'go-slow strategy', something which was deemed to be an attempt to lessen the speed of the match. These claims were dismissed out of hand by both Dylan Hartley and Joe Marler but England need to be mindful of not now speeding up the game to make a point.
The All Blacks would have seen all the talk of their diminishing aura. England now believe they are playing against mere mortals, according to Marler, but there is nothing more dangerous, in rugby terms, than a wounded Kiwi. New Zealand traditionally start their June Test programme slowly. Last year their first game against France was a close affair but they won the second Test 30-0.
There have been plenty of words flying around but no hits or kicks made in anger. Saturday will see that put right. For England they know they have to win to equal the series. There have been plenty of messages of self-belief from the England camp this week but now they must prove that on the turf. For New Zealand, they know they are just 80 minutes away from winning another Test series. Under the roof for the Forsyth-Barr Stadium expect more flowing rugby than last week with more tries on show and you feel whichever team has that little bit more accuracy in their game, they will come out on top.
The All Blacks have opted to stick rather than twist and have made just one change. Despite Kieran Read shrugging off symptoms of concussion, he fails to make the cut as he is lacking match fitness so Jerome Kaino continues at No.8. Julian Savea returns to the team and starts on the left flank with Ben Smith shifted to fullback in place of the rested Israel Dagg. The bench remains the same with Patrick Tuipulotu still looking for his first cap after failing to take to the field in the last match.
Manu Tuilagi starts on the wing for England - somewhere he has never played at Test level © Getty Images
England made the headlines this week with their selection. Manu Tuilagi plays on the wing for the first time at Test level as Stuart Lancaster opts to make five changes. Owen Farrell and Danny Care form a new-look half-back partnership while Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell are reunited in the centres. Tom Wood starts at blindside and although James Haskell and Kyle Eastmond played well in the first Test, they are not included in the matchday squad. On the bench England make six changes with uncapped tight-head Kieran Brookes preferred to Henry Thomas and Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola joining him among the replacements. Freddie Burns, Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton complete the line-up.
It is hard to look past that match-up on the wing between Savea and Tuilagi. Savea is no stranger to playing on the flank at Test level having scored 19 tries in 20 games but for Tuilagi this is a new experience. Lancaster has faith in his man to do a job and has spent time with Tuilagi this week ensuring he is comfortable with his role on the wing but Steve Hansen has thrown a few frighteners out there suggesting it is difficult to shift from the centre to wing at Test level.
Stats and Trivia:
What they have said:
"If you turn around and say so-and-so shouldn't start because he played poorly, you would not have anyone on the park. That is how poor the [first Test] performance was." - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen
"When you break it down and look at them as individuals and collectively, there are 15 blokes on a field trying to do the same as you." - England prop Joe Marler on facing the All Blacks
It will be another tight affair but the All Blacks will win by three points to make it 2-0 in the series.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.