Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Tally-ho chaps and off to Dunners

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England primed to beat the best in their own backyard as they look to square test series before final shootout.

England rugby players warm up at Onewa Domain, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
England rugby players warm up at Onewa Domain, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

All England's chariots are facing the right direction, none of the wheels have lost a cotter pin and the gladiators are reading from the same team opus.

Tally-ho then, it's off to Dunners to sort out the hosts who have got a little too uppity about their status at the head of the world rugby order.

So the underlying theme might be for England as they look to square the test series before a final shootout in Hamilton. We know it is not going to be at all straightforward, never has been for teams visiting these shores and never will be.

England, though, have grasped the demands of such a three-test series, created their most effective plans to get around the congested global schedule and have now set themselves up for one of the biggest challenges they will encounter outside the World Cup.

They believe in themselves and feel they are the equal of the All Blacks. They have set themselves the goal of beating the best in their own backyard to change the smouldering embers of inquiry under the hosts into a raging inferno.

How both teams try to go about this contest and in what measure they achieve their goals will be the thrust of the post-match inquiries.

Year three in any World Cup cycle is crucial. It is moving year for everyone as coaches look at their squads and envisage the use-by date of senior men and the development of younger men.

England are on the rise with coach Stuart Lancaster expanding the number of international-calibre men around his squad as they develop an all-round game to take into next year when they host the World Cup.

They will need to be at their best as they are in the toughest pool of the tournament with Wales and the Wallabies.

The All Blacks are jostling projections against gut feel and results. Some senior high-calibre troops like Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu are slowing and plans will be floated about managing their schedules. The manage part will be crucial to see if it is ongoing and if there are enough alternative players.

England do not have any angst about their age. They have weary frames and minds at the end of a long season but that should not matter a fig to Lancaster as he directs their attention to this test.

He wants players who have the mental strength to power through the sort of adversity which will appear once more in the Six Nations then the World Cup. Blokes with stacks of ability but flaky endurance are not going to cut it. He has reshuffled his selections to bring in his most complete side to do the business tomorrow.

This is not the Battle of Trafalgar but there is an "England expects" attitude percolating through their troops.

- 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.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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