James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

All Blacks: Bookies write off England's hopes

Little to be made in backing All Blacks at Eden Park but former captain warns against complacency.

Aaron Cruden will be  at Eden Park on Saturday. Photo / Richard Robinson
Aaron Cruden will be at Eden Park on Saturday. Photo / Richard Robinson

The bookies rate them next-to no chance but England will meet the All Blacks at an almost sold-out Eden Park on Saturday.

The All Blacks kick off their 2014 campaign against the English, who haven't won in Auckland since their shock 16-10 win in 1973.

The TAB has all but written off any chance of an upset, with odds of $8 for an English win against the All Blacks, who are returning just $6 profit for a win on a $100 bet.

Eden Park marketing manager Grant McKenzie said the game had almost completely sold out, with a capacity crowd of 47,500 expected.

He said there were still a few single and restricted view tickets and corporate hospitality packages available for fans who are wanting to go to the match.

He said that while the English tour had been on the radar for a while and it had been unclear for some time what side was going to show up, "I think New Zealanders enjoy playing England here no matter who's wearing the England shirt - there's always high interest".

Former All Black captain Ian Kirkpatrick said 1973 was a disjointed year for his side, who were expecting the Springboks to visit but were dismayed when the tour was called off and the All Blacks instead completed an internal tour of New Zealand.

"England had played Wellington, Canterbury and Taranaki and they hadn't won a game - the only one they won was against the All Blacks," he said.

Kirkpatrick, who said the English "played pretty well and we didn't and I'd rather forget about it", warned against any complacency against the weakened tourists.

"They are certainly the best team over there [in Europe] overall in the professional era. They've got the biggest pool of players to pick from and they have some big forwards, some of whom are mobile, and their backs are quite good for the modern game so the All Blacks will want to be careful."

England have conceded an average of 37 points in each of the three games they have played in Auckland since their win 41 years ago.

With a squad deleted by Aviva premiership club commitments they look highly unlikely to create history as the first team to win at Eden Park in 20 years, despite All Black coach Steve Hansen saying England are the "most improved side in world rugby in the last two years".

The All Blacks' unbeaten run at Eden Park now stretches 31 matches with their last loss coming in 1994 when they were pipped 23-20 at the death by the French when Jean-Luc Sadourny scored his try from the end of the earth.

- NZ Herald

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