'No fear' the mantra from Lancaster
Rugby:England coach Stuart Lancaster insists his side will have "no fear" when they face the all-conquering All Blacks at Twickenham tomorrow. New Zealand are unbeaten in 20 games, while they have won their past nine encounters against England.
The hosts, on the other hand, have suffered losses to the Australia and South Africa in their autumn Tests - with victory over Fiji the sole highlight.
However Lancaster, who has named Owen Farrell at outhalf as his only change following the 16-15 loss to the Springboks, said: "This is a young side who have pushed two southern hemisphere teams very close. We are hugely motivated to get that win this weekend. Our mindset going into the game we have a 'no fear' mentality and we want to make sure that we front up."
Despite his side being the favourites, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is refusing to underestimate the threat of England.
"We know that the English will lift themselves for their final match of the year, especially following their two recent narrow defeats, and we need to be prepared to match them in all facets," said Hansen, who welcomes back Dan Carter, Brodie Retallick and Keven Mealamu to his starting XV following the 33-10 win over Wales.
"They will be desperate. Stuart Lancaster is doing a pretty good job and has a fair idea of what he wants, but it will take him time. The back three is as good a back three as in world rugby."
England captain Chris Robshaw admitted he has learned some hard lessons about the pressures of international rugby over the last week, but the 26-year-old hopes the mistakes he made against Australia and South Africa will stand to him against the All Blacks.
Robshaw’s decision-making has been under the microscope after he instructed Owen Farrell to kick a penalty goal when England trailed South Africa 16-12 with just two minutes remaining.
The week before, Robshaw had been criticised for not taking the points on offer and going for the corner as England chased the game against Australia. Both matches ended in defeat and left Robshaw, who led Harlequins to the Aviva Premiership title last season, facing questions about his captaincy.
“It has been different to previous weeks and it has made me really appreciate the players and coaches and the backroom staff that we have in this squad at the moment,” Robshaw said. “Everyone has been terrific. There have been a lot of lessons for myself to learn and move forward, whether it is decision-making or other things on the pitch.
“Over the last couple of weeks, myself and the other players have learned a lot about international rugby. We have learned the hard way and unfortunately that happens in sport. We have to take those lessons and look forward. We can’t be dwelling on what happened the last couple of weeks.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves because if you fall off your game for 10 minutes they will hurt us. They can damage you in 10 seconds. First and foremost I need to go out and perform. As a captain you will be put under pressure in these situations but the whole squad have been terrific and really supportive.”
Tomorrow, Robshaw will lock horns with Richie McCaw, who has led New Zealand to 69 victories in his 78 Test matches as captain, including last year’s Rugby World Cup.
“You look at his record and he has won over 100 Tests and that record speaks for itself. He has won the World Cup and leads such a great side,” Robshaw said. “All players look up to someone like that. It is a massive challenge for myself. They will be hard to nullify.”
England: A Goode: C Ashton, M Tuilagi, B Barritt, M Brown; O Farrell, B Youngs; A Corbisiero, T Youngs, D Cole; J Launchbury, G Parling, T Wood, C Robshaw (captain), B Morgan.
Replacements: D Paice, D Wilson, M Vunipola, C Lawes, J Haskell, D Care, F Burns, J Joseph
New Zealand: I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, O Franks; B Retallick, S Whitelock; L Messam, R McCaw (captain), K Read.
Replacements: D Coles, W Crockett, C Faumuina, L Romano, V Vito, P Weepu, A Cruden, B Smith.