England v New Zealand
England actions must now speak louder than words
Tom Hamilton
November 7, 2014
SBW to play at HQ

Psychology in rugby is a subjective thing. Only the players themselves will know if it has an impact on their game. For someone like Chris Robshaw, he has played five Tests against New Zealand and has won just one back in 2012. Since that 38-21 win at Twickenham, he has captained a side that has fallen to four defeats on the trot against the All Blacks.

Team News

  • England: Semesa Rokoduguni is handed his debut while George Kruis and Anthony Watson could make their first Test appearances if they get the chance from the bench. Brad Barritt and Kyle Eastmond link up in the centres while Dave Attwood starts alongside Courtney Lawes in England's second-row.
  • New Zealand: Aaron Cruden takes the fly-half berth ahead of Beauden Barrett, who is on the bench, and Dan Carter. Sonny Bill Williams gets the nod and joins Conrad Smith in the centres while Wyatt Crockett starts at loose-head.

While the November Tests are in the spotlight, the 2015 Rugby World Cup is looming ever closer and with that comes the inevitable talk of putting down markers and striking psychological blows. For England, their mission over the next four weekends is to not only emerge from November undefeated but also, in the process, establish Twickenham as a formidable place to visit for those teams travelling from all corners of the world for next year's competition.

Much has been made of the work Stuart Lancaster has done to rebuild England's identity, but, with just 12 matches until the World Cup, the time for talking is over. England must knock over the big three at Twickenham, and it all starts with New Zealand on Saturday.

The All Blacks' mission will be the same as always: to continue their dominance of the sport. The Kiwis have won two of their past three matches, with the loss against South Africa wiped out by their comeback win over Australia in which Malakai Fekitoa's last-gasp try and Colin Slade's conversion saw them snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Then came their trot in the sun last Saturday, when they brought the US Eagles down to earth with a 74-6 pummelling.

Steve Hansen would have enjoyed presiding over a Test of limited pressure at Soldier Field, but it also gave him the opportunity to see Sonny Bill Williams back in action after his time in league - and the wrecking ball is thrown straight in against England this weekend at inside centre. He will come up against Kyle Eastmond, who experienced a horror first half against New Zealand in the third Test in Hamilton in June; the England man he will be looking to make amends alongside the rest of his team-mates following their 3-0 series loss in June to Saturday's opponents.

Semesa Rokoduguni is one of the stars of the season for Bath Rugby this season © Getty Images

In form

All English eyes will be on debutant Semesa Rokoduguni, who comes into the side having scored four tries in six Aviva Premiership matches this season for Bath. He is in a rich vein of form but there is no substitute for the pressure cooker of Test rugby. He will hope to make a mark with some gainline-breaking runs from his own 22, but he will also have to keep a close eye on world-class winger Julian Savea. In the pack, Dave Attwood is playing well for Bath, while Brad Barritt has earned his spot at outside centre after an impressive start to the campaign.

New Zealand boast formidable talent from one through to 15, with Kieran Read playing some wonderful rugby and second-row Brodie Retallick surely in with a shout of being named IRB Player of the Year. Then there is Aaron Smith at scrum-half, who has enjoyed another great season, and Savea, who has eight tries in four Tests against England.

Out of form

Jonny May performs consistently well for Gloucester, but he has never found his feet at Test level. After starting the first international against New Zealand in June, he was then exiled for the next two games. With places in the Rugby World Cup squad on the players' minds, May will want to showcase his talent on Saturday. Owen Farrell will also be under pressure to deliver after missing much of the season through injury.

For New Zealand, Aaron Cruden keeps his place at fly-half after he started against the Eagles but he endured a mixed showing from the tee. With Beauden Barrett and Dan Carter breathing down his neck, Cruden knows he has to play well on Saturday.

Chris Robshaw poses for a portrait at the Pennyhill Park Hotel, Bagshot, England, October 27, 2014
Chris Robshaw and England has lost four straight Tests against New Zealand © Getty Images

Key Battle

Rokoduguni against Savea will be intriguing, but the openside match-up between Chris Robshaw and Richie McCaw will go a long way to determining who wins the game. Phil Vickery in his column for ESPN said England must master this aspect of the match if they are to stand a chance of winning.


  • Hooker Keven Mealamu - on 120 Tests - is now the fifth most capped player of all time after overtaking the former English prop Jason Leonard following New Zealand's win over USA.
  • The All Blacks team boasts 1029 caps between them.


New Zealand are favourites to win the match priced at 1.31 while you can get England at 3.4.


New Zealand by 10.

Julian Savea has scored eight tries in four Tests against England © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.