The All Blacks went on a secret scouting mission at Twickenham last weekend, a chance to soak up the atmosphere that 80,000 rugby supporters can create at the famous old ground and, more importantly, get some intelligence on the enemy they will face on Sunday.

Ben Smith, Brodie Retallick and others among the top-line All Blacks who travelled early to London and therefore missed the Japan test in Tokyo apparently forsook the chance to receive free tickets from the Rugby Football Union and instead arranged to buy them and therefore get in and out relatively undetected.

They were recognised by those supporters around them, with pictures asked for and given, but otherwise they were left alone to watch England sneak home 12-11 against South Africa in a test which would have taught them and their fellow All Blacks plenty about how the men in white will defend in particular.

Afterwards, England coach Eddie Jones was under the impression the All Blacks would have been at their base near Teddington "drinking cups of tea, maybe having some scones, saying 'oh, we'll take these guys'. They'll be confident and we can't wait to get them."


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Instead, they were at the ground, a neat little tactic which may or may not give them an advantage ahead of their first meeting with England in four years, but one which at least suggests they and the team's management can occasionally play their cards close to their chests.

"We were actually at the stadium so we weren't having scones like he suggested, or a cup of tea," Retallick said. "It was physical, it's probably not the style of rugby we're used to but they're extremely good at what they did. I thought they did a great job."

All Blacks team huddle. Photo / Photosport
All Blacks team huddle. Photo / Photosport

Teammate Ben Smith said of the reception he and his teammates received: "There wasn't too much fuss when we got there – we were down the front. There were a few people who were after photos but they were pretty good… they let us sit down and enjoy the game. It was a wee bit weird being at a test like that and not being involved – just watching the opposition – but it is a great experience going to Twickenham."

Jones stated after the test how much he was looking forward to facing the All Blacks, and the feeling is very much mutual. This is a test that every rugby fan should be looking forward to because of the history of the two teams, the fact they haven't played each other in four years, and the two very different styles they play.

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who described the English as having the best kick-chase game in the world alongside South Africa, said: "A lot of people make mistakes about England and they are quite critical.

"They play different than we do, it's not to say they play a better game or a worse game, they just play differently. They are a hard team to play against and they showed that on Saturday. They didn't have a lot of ball but they hung in there and won a game they probably didn't feel they'd played their best but they still won. That's the mark of a good side."


They are also now assisted by former All Blacks coach John Mitchell, the team's defensive expert who along with Jones will be hell-bent on putting one over the world champions by virtually any means possible.

To do so they probably have to do what they couldn't do against the Boks – and that's score at least one try. That's something they certainly managed at Twickenham in 2012 when they thrashed a clearly tired All Blacks team 38-21 (three tries each, as it happens), and for Retallick, who started at lock alongside Sam Whitelock, it's a test he remembers well.

"I certainly remember it – you remember the ones you lose," he said. "Will it provide us with more motivation? Probably not, because it was a long time ago, but certainly the feeling in the sheds afterwards wasn't that great."