All Blacks not interested in revenge over England

New Zealand’s All Blacks will be looking to win their 13th match out of 13 this weekend when they face England at England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The world champions’ lone loss in their past 33 Tests was a record 38-21 defeat by England, the 2015 World Cup hosts, at Twickenham last year.

But don’t mention “revenge” to New Zealand coach Steve Hansen.

“There are a lot of people who have banded the word ‘revenge’ around but it is one of the silliest words you can use in rugby,” Hansen said.

“It is too strong a word, revenge is quite a hateful word. What it is is an opportunity to see if we have improved, to see if we are good enough to beat England.

“We weren’t last year, they were first, daylight was second and we were third — I would rather see this as an opportunity rather than the word revenge.

“What we are trying to do is strive to be better than we are, which is number one,” added Hansen ahead of a match where fly-half Dan Carter is set to become only the fifth All Black to win 100 caps.

“If you don’t look to improve yourself you are going to go backwards so, for us, our whole aim as a group of players, coaches and management is to be better than we were the week before.

“There is no such thing as a perfect performance but that is what we strive to do.”

Hansen’s mood may not have been improved by revelations in the British media earlier this week of a statement written on a whiteboard in New Zealand’s team room which said: “We are the most dominant team in the history of the world.”

Not that England coach Stuart Lancaster was in a mood to disagree.

“When teams win a World Cup they traditionally take a dip, maybe rest on their laurels, but they have managed to retain the hunger and desire to keep wining,” Lancaster said.

“In world sport could you tell me a team that has a record like that internationally?…So, yes, this is the best team.”

New Zealand-born England hooker Dylan Hartley is set to win his 50th cap this weekend.

And while he was a member of a pack that dominated the first half of last week’s 31-12 win over Argentina, the way England tailed off in the second period against the Pumas was cause for concern.

However, Lancaster has made just one change to his starting side, recalling prop Dan Cole in place of David Wilson.

In 35 Tests dating back more than a hundred years, England have beaten New Zealand on just seven occasions, suffering 27 defeats with one draw.

And, significantly, the last time they won successive Tests against the All Blacks was shortly before England great Martin Johnson lifted the World Cup in 2003.

“We want to get to the position where we don’t declare national holidays every time we beat them,” England flanker Tom Wood said.

France, in pushing New Zealand close before losing 26-19 last week, gave England grounds for optimism.

But, as well as maintaining their forward effort for the full 80 minutes, a faltering back division is likely to have to up its game against New Zealand, who have an additional attacking threat following the recall of wing Julian Savea.

This time last year England centres Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt both scored tries against New Zealand.

But they are now out with injury and Saturday’s match promises to be an acid test of whether Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees, trying to forge a midfield partnership with rugby league convert Joel Tomkins, can transfer the ball-playing skills that make him so dangerous at club level to the international arena.


England (15-1)

Mike Brown; Chris Ashton, Joel Tomkins, Billy Twelvetrees, Ben Foden; Owen Farrell, Lee Dickson; Billy Vunipola, Chris Robshaw (capt), Tom Wood; Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury; Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler

Replacements: Tom Youngs, Matt Mullan, David Wilson, Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan, Ben Youngs, Toby Flo

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