Rugby World Cup
Henry rates England as northern hemisphere's best
ESPNscrum Staff
March 16, 2011
All Blacks coach Graham Henry and Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, Christchurch Earthquake Relief Charity Twenty20 match, Basin Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand, March 13, 2011
When he's not hanging out with Russell Crowe, Graham Henry has been staying up late to watch Six Nations © Getty Images

Whether or not they achieve Grand Slam glory by defeating Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, England have already made an impression on All Blacks coach Graham Henry ahead of this year's World Cup in New Zealand.

Henry has been watching the Six Nations with interest and four games in, he concurs with the standings which have England at the top of the northern hemisphere pile.

"I think England are developing into a pretty powerful unit, and I think they'll be very competitive come World Cup time," Henry said at the announcement of the All Blacks' extra game. "They're the best of them (northern hemisphere teams) at the moment, but they've all got the potential to play well."

France have been at their inconsistent best and sunk to a new low with a 21-22 defeat to Italy at Rome last weekend, but Henry knows better than to write off a French team, no matter how they are playing six months out from the New Zealand-hosted tournament.

France beat New Zealand 43-31 at London in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup after suffering a 7-54 defeat in Wellington earlier that year, and in the 2007 World Cup France also defeated the All Blacks, 20-18 at Cardiff in the quarter-finals, after being thrashed 3-47 on home turf in Lyon the previous year.

"I can't remember the result in 2007 when we played them," Henry said with a straight face, "but that may be some sort of indication about the French. They'll bounce back and they'll play well in the rugby World Cup."

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