Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: English threaten All Blacks' world record bid

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England brought a bustling ball in hand game to deal to Wales as another step in their work towards hosting the World Cup next year. Photo / Getty Images
England brought a bustling ball in hand game to deal to Wales as another step in their work towards hosting the World Cup next year. Photo / Getty Images

There are some words you don't usually associate with English rugby.

However tempo, adventure and width have come into their game since Stuart Lancaster took over as coach, assets which bore decent dividends yesterday when they rolled Wales.

England have lost some serious talent to injury, blokes such as Billy Vunipola, Manu Tuilagi, Alex Corbisiero and Tom Croft but they have a number of other diamonds.

Mike Brown is a feisty fullback whose instincts are to attack and look for space, Luther Burrell stings in the three quarter line, Owen Farrell adds adventure to his defence and goalkicking assurance aplomb and Danny Care has great balance to his halfback game.

England serious contenders for World Cup - Woodward

There is beef by the bucket load in the pack and skill too with tight-loosie Chris Robshaw a strong leader alongside the muscle from Courtney Laws, Joe Launchbury and abrasion from Dylan Hartley.

England brought a bustling ball in hand game to deal to Wales as another step in their work towards hosting the World Cup next year. There were misfires as they worked through their revised plans but the gains were impressive. Their defence was brutish and Welsh threats like Jamie Roberts were castled every time they reached the advantage line. After the 30-3 pasting they took last year in Cardiff, this was a honeyed revenge for the Sweet Chariot.

London turned on the sun while Prince Harry with 82,000 others were swept up in the colourful pageantry of the home side success. Only matches in France and Argentina rival Twickenham for noise although the sporting fare is usually much more dreary.

England's investment in Lancaster and new faces promises a decent three test series in June when they arrive to challenge the All Blacks who have their eyes set on a world record.

Since they won the World Cup in 2011 the All Blacks have played 28 tests and lost once, to England, and drawn another test with the Wallabies.

England brought a bustling ball in hand game to deal to Wales as another step in their work towards hosting the World Cup next year. Photo / Getty Images
England brought a bustling ball in hand game to deal to Wales as another step in their work towards hosting the World Cup next year. Photo / Getty Images

In 2012 there was a lacklustre 18-all stalemate with the Wallabies in Brisbane which halted a winning sequence at 16 and then four games later a lively England crunched the tourists 38-21 at Twickenham.

The All Blacks recovered strongly last year and are on a current streak of 14 wins looking to go past the tier one record of 17 successive wins they share with the Springboks.

First up England stand in the way three times, in Auckland, Dunedin and Hamilton.

They will be a significant barrier if they can keep their squad healthy and interested at the end of this Six Nations campaign and their club competitions. They are a side on the rise and much more professional than the previous 2008 and 2004 squads who were well beaten in each of their four tests.

England last won here on a foul evening at Wellington in 2003 in the buildup to their solitary World Cup triumph. Apart from that visit from Clive Woodward and his team, tests in the past three decades in New Zealand with England have usually been ho hum sporting episodes. However, the impending visit with England's growing range of skills, promises much more.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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