Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell lead the battle cries as England take aim at the All Blacks

With Owen Farrell cleared to play, England will do something this week that they have not done in four years: prepare to face the All Blacks.

Eddie Jones will hope it will be a case of same again in terms of his players, although the news that Tom Curry needs further assessment on an ankle injury suffered against the Springboks on Saturday sounds bleak by all account. However, any disappointment by what happens with Curry this week will quickly be overtaken by the excitement of facing the reigning world champions, New Zealand, and what will be England’s biggest test since Jones took charge.

Along with the availability of Farrell, who avoided any citing for his controversial tackle on South Africa replacement Andre Esterhuizen, England could also be boosted by the return of Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi, the latter looking to rediscover the form that saw him tear the All Blacks apart at Twickenham in what was their last victory over the world’s best side six years ago.

And with a morale-boosting win over southern hemisphere opposition already in the bag, th message from Jones et al was clear; bring on the All Blacks.


England vs South Africa player ratings





1/30 Alec Hepburn – 5 out of 10

2/30 Dylan Hartley – 7 out of 10

3/30 Kyle Sinckler – 6 out of 10

4/30 Maro Itoje – 6 out of 10

5/30 George Kruis – 7 out of 10

6/30 Brad Shields – 7 out of 10

7/30 Tom Curry – 6 out of 10.

8/30 Mark Wilson – 8 out of 10

9/30 Ben Youngs – 6 out of 10

10/30 Owen Farrell – 8 out of 10

11/30 Jonny May – 6 out of 10

12/30 Ben Te’o – 7 out of 10

13/30 Henry Slade – 6 out of 10

14/30 Jack Nowell – 6 out of 10

15/30 Elliot Daly – 5 out of 10

16/30 <b>South Africa:</b> Steven Kitschoff – 7 out of 10

17/30 Malcolm Marx – 4 out of 10

18/30 Frans Malherbe – 6 out of 10

19/30 Eben Etzebeth – 5 out of 10

20/30 Pieter-Steph du Toit – 6 out of 10

21/30 Siya Kolisi – 6 out of 10

22/30 Duane Vermeulen – 6 out of 10

23/30 Warren Whiteley – 6 out of 10

24/30 Ivan van Zyl – 6 out of 10

25/30 Handre Pollard – 7 out of 10

26/30 Aphiwe Dyantyi – 6 out of 10

27/30 Damian de Allende – 6 out of 10

28/30 Jesse Kriel – 6 out of 10

29/30 Sbu Nkosi – 7 out of 10

30/30 Damian Willemse – 6 out of 10

1/30 Alec Hepburn – 5 out of 10

2/30 Dylan Hartley – 7 out of 10

3/30 Kyle Sinckler – 6 out of 10

4/30 Maro Itoje – 6 out of 10

5/30 George Kruis – 7 out of 10

6/30 Brad Shields – 7 out of 10

7/30 Tom Curry – 6 out of 10.

8/30 Mark Wilson – 8 out of 10

9/30 Ben Youngs – 6 out of 10

10/30 Owen Farrell – 8 out of 10

11/30 Jonny May – 6 out of 10

12/30 Ben Te’o – 7 out of 10

13/30 Henry Slade – 6 out of 10

14/30 Jack Nowell – 6 out of 10

15/30 Elliot Daly – 5 out of 10

16/30 <b>South Africa:</b> Steven Kitschoff – 7 out of 10

17/30 Malcolm Marx – 4 out of 10

18/30 Frans Malherbe – 6 out of 10

19/30 Eben Etzebeth – 5 out of 10

20/30 Pieter-Steph du Toit – 6 out of 10

21/30 Siya Kolisi – 6 out of 10

22/30 Duane Vermeulen – 6 out of 10

23/30 Warren Whiteley – 6 out of 10

24/30 Ivan van Zyl – 6 out of 10

25/30 Handre Pollard – 7 out of 10

26/30 Aphiwe Dyantyi – 6 out of 10

27/30 Damian de Allende – 6 out of 10

28/30 Jesse Kriel – 6 out of 10

29/30 Sbu Nkosi – 7 out of 10

30/30 Damian Willemse – 6 out of 10

I said to the boys after this game that I can’t wait. I cannot wait,” Jones said. “They are the benchmark for world rugby; the team you want to play against. Where you are in the world, you only know when you play against the All Blacks. Any team that wins 91 per cent of their games is a great team. What other teams in world sport do that?”

That excitement can now spread through the squad, given that the players would not allow themselves to look beyond the Springboks last week – and with good reason. Had England made the smallest of mistakes, the slimmest of errors, because they had one eye already on the All Blacks, Saturday could easily have ended in disappointment, removing the extra spring that is in their step this week.

If Jones is the man off the field that gets his players ready for the task at hand, Farrell is certainly the one that rallies the troops on the field. So when the England co-captain spoke about having the belief that they can shock the All Blacks this weekend, it felt like the laying down of a gauntlet.

We know it’s going to be a big test. The best team, the number one team in the world is coming,” Farrell said. “We felt like we left a couple out there but we’ll fix stuff like that up. We have not spent too much time together so it’ll be good to get another week under our belts. Then we’ll really get excited for a massive challenge.

“Everybody loves playing against the best teams. It’s not something I’ve been picking out in the calendar, because this South Africa was first. This one was a massive, massive game so you pour all your energy to this, and after we’ve enjoyed this, we’ll pour all our energy into next week.”

When Jones took the job at the start of 2016, he immediately set his sights on reducing the gap between England and New Zealand in the hope that, should they meet as scheduled in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals next year, the Red Rose stands a good chance of triumphing over the Silver Fern.

But if he ever needs convincing about England’s chances, he need only turn to his new No 10.

“Anyone can be beaten,” Farrell added. “I don’t think any team is unbeatable. We’ve got to make sure we concentrate on what we can do and I’m sure people will talk about all different things this week, we have got to make sure we get better and that shows on the pitch at the weekend.

“They are a very good team, with some very good players, and obviously they’ve got a strong belief in what they’re doing, sticking in games for a long time and normally coming away with a win. We pour all our efforts into what goes on in the week, what we do ourselves, and believe that we can put our game on the field.

“They got beat not so long ago, didn’t they?

It is fighting talk from the rapidly emerging talisman of English rugby, and with his unquestionable belief in the camp this week, England might actually kick-off at 3:00pm next Saturday genuinely believing they can beat the All Blacks. Whether they will do, now that’s an entirely different question altogether.

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