All Blacks fearful of England backlash

Kieran Read fears New Zealand will feel the full force of an England backlash at Twickenham this weekend.

The All Blacks would pile more pressure on under-fire England manager Martin Johnson with a victory on Saturday in the third Test of their European tour.

Johnson’s men were booed by their own supporters during the laboured 16-9 win over an under-strength Argentina last weekend, in a performance that was arguably more turgid than the one they produced in the 18-9 defeat to Australia seven days earlier.

Many are predicting a similar thrashing this weekend to the one dealt out by New Zealand at Twickenham 12 months ago, when England were thumped 32-6.

But Canterbury number eight Read believes Johnson, a World Cup winner as a player in 2003, will ultimately turn round the fortunes of the England team and is adamant Saturday will not be the All Blacks cakewalk that has been forecast.

“It’s always tough when you pin it all on a coach and I don’t think it’s probably fair on Martin Johnson,” Read said.

“The team’s performances are what count at the end of the day but we’ll probably see a different side to England on Saturday.

“Teams that get bagged (by the press) normally come out and put in a good performance. We have to be wary of that.

“England are going to be up for it on Saturday. That’s our job – to be ready for a team that is going to come out all fired up.

“As a player, he (Johnson) always kept coming every week and he’s not going to lie down. I’d say that’s how he’ll be coaching and he’ll bring the guys around.”

New Zealand have won their last four Tests and look to have overcome a slump in form that saw them lose to South Africa on three occasions in the Tri-Nations, and also to France in June.

They are halfway towards a clean sweep of November international victories but they have not yet showed their ruthless streak in triumphs over Wales (19-12) and Italy (20-6, in Milan last weekend).

With the All Blacks likely to name a close-to-full-strength side for Saturday’s match, Read admits the team are keen to rediscover their clinical edge.

“It’s something we have talked about,” said Read, who is likely to dislodge Rodney So’oialo from the starting XV after being rested last weekend.

“If we do get a lead, we want to maybe kick on with a try and a few more points, and then sometimes you might break a side.

“It’s about being patient and not looking too far ahead. It’s going pretty well at the moment.”

With South Africa losing to France in Toulouse last Friday and Australia’s Grand Slam hopes perishing owing to their draw against Ireland in Dublin on Sunday, the southern hemisphere teams are not having it all their own way at the moment.

The Springboks, New Zealand and Australia remain the world’s top three-ranked teams but Read insists the gulf between them and the leading European nations is not as wide as some think.

“A few results around over the weekend shows there is a real close gap. It depends who turns up on the day,” he added.

“This is an awesome opportunity for this weekend but England are going to be putting their bodies on the line.”

Experienced loosehead Tony Woodcock is likely to return from a back injury this weekend to help prop up New Zealand’s faltering scrum, while fly-half Dan Carter is available after serving a one-match ban for a dangerous tackle on Martin Roberts during the win over Wales in Cardiff.

England have recalled 36-year-old Lions lock Simon Shaw and wing Paul Sackey to their squad.

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