With the Six Nations done and dusted and the attention shifting back to the weekly games of club rugby, We’re going to have a very early look at the next major internationals, being the June tests. They carry extra significance this year, as it is the penultimate time the northern hemisphere clashes with the southern hemisphere before the 2015 World cup, with the November internationals being the last.
So without further ado, let’s have a look:
New Zealand – England
Probably the most anticipated test series of all the outgoing tours, this one is shaping up to be a cracker. New Zealand has been the undisputed number 1 since 2010 and achieved the very first unbeaten calender year in the professional era. England, on the other hand, have finished their transitional period and are shaping up to be title contenders come 2015.
New Zealand and England seem to be developing some kind of rivalry. The All Blacks’ last defeat was at the hands of the English on the 1st of November 2012, and their last confrontation was a relatively close affair, with New Zealand winning by 8.
England came second in the Six Nations, but there’s a feeling of anticipation surrounding this young team. Lancaster has been steadily building the team, and they currently have a couple of world class players in the shape of Mike Brown and Manu Tuilagi, and many who could attain this accolade in the coming year.
The All Blacks have been steadily introducing new faces into a well-known line-up, with prop and arguably inside centre the only positions lacking depth. They do not seem to suffer the dip in form most world championship winning teams go through, and are still the biggest force in world Rugby.
If England wants to stand a chance against the All Blacks, they will have to dominate the set-pieces. Especially the scrum has been a (relative) weakness, so having the upper hand here will be important for the English. The most captivating positional battle will without a doubt be the battle of the fullbacks. If Mike Brown, Israel Dagg and Ben Smith manage to stay injury free, we will be in for quite a treat.
New Zealand to win the series 2-1.