New Zealand v England: Stuart Lancaster ready for All Blacks Test
New Zealand v England: Stuart Lancaster insists the Red Rose are relishing their first Test at Eden Park on Saturday
Stuart Lancaster insists England will be ready for the test of taking on the All Blacks at their Eden Park fortress on Saturday.
The England head coach is happy with how the team have prepared for the game—despite the absence of 14 players to last Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final—and is confident of achieving just a second win in New Zealand in the professional era.
Kyle’s different to Billy Twelvetrees in that regard, but I still think he can do that really well and definitely open our attacking game up, which is what we want to do
“Really confident. It’s born out of firm foundations,” Lancaster told RFUTV.
“They’ve trained well, prepared well and they’re good players who’ve delivered in the Premiership and in training camps with us, so we’ll be more than ready for Saturday.
“It’s a huge occasion for us. The All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park in a long time and they were unbeaten last season, world champions, and quite rightly confident going into the game, but we’re pretty confident we’ll give them a real good test this weekend.”
That All Blacks’s unbeaten record at Eden Park stretches back almost 20 years and 32 matches since France scored the famous “try from the end of the world” in the closing stages to secure a 23-20 win and 2-0 series win in July.
A month later saw a draw with South Africa and no team has won there since.
With key players unable to play until the second Test on 14 June, Lancaster has been forced to delve into the Premiership talent pool which will see Bath centre Kyle Eastmond, 24, and Gloucester outside-half Freddie Burns, also 24, thrown into the starting XV on to one of sport’s greatest stages.
Considered by some to be the fourth choices in their respective positions, Lancaster expects both players to come through unscathed despite their relative inexperience against the world champions, who boast 968 caps in their match-day squad and are without talismans Dan Carter and Kieran Read.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, but it’s a matter of finding the right time and right occasion to do it,” Lancaster said of giving Eastmond an opportunity of starting a big Test match.
“I enjoy having another player who can be a ball player at 12 and can organise people and put them through holes, but can also be a running threat themselves.
“Kyle’s different to Billy Twelvetrees in that regard, but I still think he can do that really well and definitely open our attacking game up, which is what we want to do.
“He’ll be strong defensively. Andy Farrell’s done a great amount of work with him. He’s certainly going to be tested, but he won’t shirk the tackles and he’s played in some big games before and this is a huge game for him but I’m confident he’ll be ready.”
Sale Sharks outside-half Danny Cipriani may have rediscovered his form as he guided his club to a top six finish, but he will have to play understudy to Burns who had a season to forget with Gloucester ahead of his summer move to Leicester Tigers.
“Obviously, [Freddie] has not had the best season by his own standards, but he’s certainly come good towards the end of it,” Lancaster said.
“And as soon as he knew he was going to be in the mix for the starting position for the first Test he’s just grown into the role and shown great leadership.”