England v New Zealand
Kennedy geared up for All Blacks challenge
November 27, 2008
Kennedy touches down for England against the Pacific Islanders at Twickenham earlier this month © Getty Images
Nick Kennedy is determined to put in a performance which England team manager Martin Johnson cannot ignore against New Zealand in the final autumn Test at Twickenham on Saturday.
The England second row forward scored a try on an impressive debut against the Pacific Islanders earlier this month but did not even make the 22 for the matches against Australia and South Africa. An injury to Tom Palmer, however, means the London Irish lock earns a recall against the All Blacks.
Kennedy said: "When they put up the sheet and announced the team I was just over the moon. New Zealand are the best team in the world. I've been watching them for years. Now I've got the chance to play against them and face that Haka dead on and that's what I'm really excited about."
Kennedy expected the second rows in the squad would be rotated during the course of the autumn series, but being dropped was still a sobering experience. "I was told it was nothing negative I'd done in the game against the Pacific Islanders and that helped me," said 27-year-old Kennedy. "I kept my head up and trained really well. I was gutted not to have the opportunity to play against Australia and South Africa but I was never going to get in a mood about it and drag my feet, that's not the sort of character I am. I was always going to come back fighting."
It is the attitude England require on Saturday when they face the All Blacks a week after losing 42-6 to South Africa, the worst defeat at Twickenham by an England side. Kennedy, together with second row partner Steve Borthwick, will be vital in trying to win the quick ball which has eluded England so far when they come up against star All Blacks locks Ali Williams and Brad Thorn.
Kennedy said: "I take that responsibility seriously and hopefully I can deliver that. Their scrum is very strong and Ali Williams is one of the best line-out forwards in the world. They're a very exciting team to watch.
"We have a massive challenge ahead of us. To have ended the autumn series against South Africa with that defeat and have no rugby until the Six Nations would have been awful, so to have this game to right some wrongs is a big positive."
Kennedy and his England colleagues will be playing for the inaugural Hillary Shield, unveiled today by Sir Edmund Hillary's widow, which will be on the line whenever England face New Zealand outside of a World Cup.
Lady June Hillary will also present the trophy to the winning team on Saturday and she was at Twickenham today to meet England captain Steve Borthwick and New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw. "It was an honour to meet Lady Hillary at Twickenham today. It's a great trophy befitting a great man who achieved so much in his life and was respected all around the world," said Borthwick. "I'm sure it will enhance the rich history of games between England and New Zealand and we're looking forward to competing for it for the first time on the pitch this weekend."
The trophy honours Sir Edmund's lifetime of achievements as a mountaineer, adventurer, humanitarian, and as Knight of the Garter. A legendary figure in New Zealand, Sir Edmund was also widely respected in the United Kingdom and around the world as the climber who, with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 as part of the British Everest Exhibition.