England coach Stuart Lancaster has named his squad for the first test against the All Blacks on June 7th, with the reinforcements for the second and third test matches not named until after the Aviva Premiership Final between Saracens and Northampton Saints. What do you think of this squad?
As a New Zealand based rugby writer, there are enough familiar names to suggest that the first test won’t be too lopsided, although sometimes 80 minutes can be a long time against a quality team like the All Blacks.
Some areas where England look vulnerable are in the flyhalf or first five eighth position where someone like Owen Farrell will be missed. Although I haven’t heard of many of the front row options, especially the hookers in the England squad. That is one area that England doesn’t usually struggle in.
I am not suggesting that England will win, but the All Blacks should beat England in the first test on June 7th, but here are seven reasons why England will not be completely thrashed in the first test against the All Blacks.
1) No matter how bad the England team has been historically, their front row is usually one of their stronger areas. This team has several unknowns in it, but I can’t remember a weak England pack.
2) There are enough quality players across the team to suggest that it won’t be completely one way traffic. Players like Manu Tuilagi, Mike Brown, Ben Morgan etc should be good enough to at least hold their own. Mind you, it is a team game, but these players will arrive nine days before the first test match and have plenty of time together to train.
3) New Zealand struggled to put away a second rate France last season in the first test at Eden Park in 2013. The All Blacks still won, but only by 23-13.
4) This is a night game and so conditions may not be conducive to playing expansive rugby like the All Blacks love to play feeding their explosive backs like Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Ma’a Nonu and the exciting Malakai Fekitoa, if he gets selected. It could mean playing for territory, some handling mistakes and kicking goals to get points.
5) It is the first test of 2014 for the All Blacks and they could potentially be a little rusty playing as a unit. They have been playing for their respective Super Rugby teams, but test match rugby is a step up to the next level. These Northern Hemisphere players are coming towards the end of their season, so they have played test match rugby more recently.
6) Everyone expects the All Blacks to win by 50 points. It is sometimes difficult going into games as the overwhelming favourites. The trouble with being the top dog is that everyone finds that extra motivation to raise their game when playing against the All Blacks.
7) The All Blacks will have to win without Dan Carter who is on a sabbatical, while Kieran Read is also in doubt. There are also some older players in the squad like Richie McCaw and Keven Mealamu who haven’t played much rugby in 2014.
What do you think of this England squad to play the All Blacks? Do they have any chance?
England squad flying to New Zealand on May 27 (arrive May 29)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Matt Mullan (London Wasps)
Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons)
Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
David Wilson (Bath Rugby)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Joe Gray (Harlequins)
Dave Ward (Harlequins)
Rob Webber (Bath Rugby)
Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby)
Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers)
James Haskell (London Wasps)
Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs)
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby)
Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby)
Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)
Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby)
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors)
Marland Yarde (London Irish)