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Are England ready for All Blacks?
Big challenge awaits Johnson and his side at Twickenham
Posted Nov 02, 2010 by Jeff Dawson
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All England fans are truly excited ahead of the Autumn Test with New Zealand on Saturday, but are the English ready for such a test of ability, character and passion?
The All Blacks are clearly the best team in the world so to start this set of Test matches against them will show just how far England have come and how far they still have to go if they are to compete with the best at the World Cup next summer.
England have improved under the stewardship of Martin Johnson, but his leadership and motivational skills will need to be at the peak of their powers if his side are to get anything from this match. When England won the World Cup in 2003, they used the final year’s build up to hone and tweak what was already a fantastic team. That was all about ironing out problems.
To me, it now seems this year is more about working out what’s best for the XV players that will wear the white of England. It’s nowhere near as developed as that winning squad and still relies heavily on the influence of players that were there in Australia. Lewis Moody and Jonny Wilkinson are still massively influential in this team.
So to Saturday - I expect the All Blacks to come flying out of the traps and hit the hosts hard but there’s no doubt that the Twickenham will be behind the boys. It promises to be a magnificent match and I just hope the visitors don’t steamroller their way to an easy win as they have done to both Australia and South Africa in the Tri-Nations.
For England, Andrew Sheridan has replaced Tim Payne at loose-head prop in the starting XV and he is the only change to the side which beat Australia in Sydney in June.
Wilkinson misses out with a shoulder injury whilst captain Moody is fit despite a recent career-threatening eye injury and a head wound suffered last weekend. Uncapped duo David Attwood and Hendre Fourie are on the bench in place of Simon Shaw and James Haskell.