"England by one will do."

It may have been said with more hope than conviction but, nevertheless, Rugby World Cup-winning No 8 Lawrence Dallaglio believes his countrymen can knock over the All Blacks in their highly-anticipated semifinal in Yokohama this weekend.

"I'm a patriot so I'm going to back my team but they're going to have to produce something very, very special. That's what it takes to beat New Zealand. I think it'll be a one score game. It could be in the last 10 minutes. I'm going go with my heart, not my head. England by one will do," Dallaglio, speaking on behalf of Land Rover, official worldwide partner of Rugby World Cup 2019, told the Herald in Tokyo.

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"You've got one team that's been there done that and the England team that's still on a bit of a journey of discovery. There's no doubt New Zealand start the game as favourites. Their World Cup record is phenomenal. Steve Hansen is one of the best coaches in the business.

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"It's up to England to take that away from them but in a two horse race, you've got a shot. The prize at stake is huge – this game is big enough to be a World Cup final itself."

Dallaglio's sense of belief stems from the progression he has witnessed from England under Eddie Jones. Since bombing out of the pool stages at their home World Cup, England have fluctuated from equalling New Zealand's test record, 18 wins in a row, to a dire patch of form where Jones was forced to save his job in the third test of the series in South Africa.

After responding with several powerful, impressive performances in this year's Six Nations, and sweeping Australia aside 40-16 in their quarter-final, England arrive at this juncture in a confident mood.

"I've seen the development in this group over the past four years. They've won everything domestically they can win, everything in Europe they can win," Dallaglio said, referring to the large presence of London-based Saracens players that includes captain Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Mako and Billy Vunipola, Jamie George and George Kruis.

"To win a World Cup you need a handful of world-class players. Four years ago when Eddie Jones took over England might have had one, if that. This group have really grown. When I look at them man for man, these are guys who played for the British and Irish Lions and they've beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand.

"They've been part of that experience. That's got to give them the belief that they're in Japan, and they're playing against the same team, so they can win."

Former England World Cup winning rugby team captain Lawrence Dallaglio in Tokyo. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Former England World Cup winning rugby team captain Lawrence Dallaglio in Tokyo. Photo / Mark Mitchell

On a more cautionary note for English hopefuls, Dallaglio has been struck by the rapid evolution of the All Blacks this year, specifically their attacking changes, after struggles to breakdown defensive line-speed pressure.

"If you asked me 18 months ago who would be playing for New Zealand at the World Cup there would be a very different look about the team.

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"Hansen learnt some of the lessons from the Lions tour and looked at where Ireland hurt them a few times and made some changes. You look at the back three. Moving Beauden Barrett to fullback, everyone in the world is going 'what are you doing, are you mad? You've got the best No 10 in the world and you've just moved him to fullback' but he knows that to win a World Cup you need a goal-kicker.

"You're the best bloke in the world but we need someone who can kick under pressure. That's a big call to make but it's the right call.

"I was looking at the team saying 'where's Ben Smith? How can you leave a player like him out?' and suddenly you've got George Bridge and Sevu Reece and they've slotted in comfortably.

"It's looking pretty good so far."

Twenty years ago, the last time England faced the All Blacks at the World Cup, Dallaglio was on the receiving end of the 30-16 pool defeat.

Across his 88 tests he did, however, enjoy success against the All Blacks in Wellington, en route to winning the World Cup in 2003.

"Getting to the top in rugby is really tough and you know, to do that, you have to beat New Zealand so that's what made it exciting.

"The game is about respect and you don't get respect until you beat the best. That was something I was very clear about."

The frightening manner in which the All Blacks dispatched Ireland 46-14 in their quarterfinal – leading 22-0 after 32 minutes – may leave England daunted about their chances but Dallaglio believes this group will instead be inspired.

"I don't think it's daunting, it's a challenge. England won't be getting ahead of themselves because they only have to watch the tape of the first half New Zealand performance to realise they've got to go up another level.

"The All Blacks were exceptionally good for 40 minutes. Ireland came alive for 10 minutes in the second half. Rugby doesn't work like that, you've got to cause your opponent problems from the off and once you get his throat, you've got to keep hold of it."


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