As rugby fans go from a famine, to a rugby feast – in regards to an important International rugby fixture – the upcoming England v New Zealand test has been intensely anticipated. So by the time of kickoff, the #ENGvNZL hashtag will be trending in both hemispheres.
And with the first world ability of rugby fans as far away as New Zealand to be instantaneously connected to the match thread, the much-heralded game is looking to be a focal point of the calendar [while there is a huge wealth of choice, for World Rugby fans].
From a famine, to a rugby-feast! #ENGvNZL
That sentiment might sound cheesy, yet, how long have rugby fans had to wait until this moment? Too long – the last match in England was in 2012. And while England did tour New Zealand in 2014, the desire to see the Rose v the Silver Fern has dominated much of the last few years.
No longer. On Saturday afternoon; once the formalities of the revered admiration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I are completed, there is a rugby battle [with all due respect to the anniversary] to be fought. An 80-minute challenge from the World Champions, toward one of their most enigmatic foes.
Fixture holds more relevance, in World Cup calendar year
This game holds more relevance in 2018. Suffering a loss to South Africa, the All Blacks do not arrive as the indomitable side (which Steve Hansen would have dearly liked) they once were. They will be a side who now must perform, to retain their number one position, to continue preparations for the 2019 Rugby World Cup but also, to cancel out a formidable challenger who has been a constant threat.
Not the second best team in rugby anymore – that status is held by Ireland currently – but, with Eddie Jones at the helm, England Rugby is a cunning rival that; no matter form or latest resorts, are a true adversary. The anxiousness of fans in both hemispheres has print and social media a buzz.
So this weekend is a true rugby-feast.
Add to that, a full plate of matches this weekend across Europe. With the likes of France v South Africa, Italy v Georgia, Wales v Australia and a Rugby World Cup repechage tournament….fans will all be captivated. And modern technology has brought the game into fans living room like never before; no matter where on earth they are today.
All that makes for an engaging fixture, be it a 3:00pm kick-off or, a 4:00 am start down down in the Southern hemisphere.
Eddie Jones gives his team a Chance
Forever the optimist, England Rugby head coach Eddie Jones has the demeanor of a man who believes in his side. Even after several losses; a lost June Tests Series defeat to South Africa, and the poorest finish in the Six Nations in recent memory, Jones is pointing to the positives.
"We want to play with pride and passion which ignites the fans."
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 8, 2018
The above video portrays Jones as a confident leader. It betrays the recent rugby-outcomes, yet he will feel as confident that the plan to concentrate on his teams ‘own game’ is still reliant on them being a solid brick wall in their defense. And of course, the English unbreakable spirit.
Across the pitch from him, the feeling is mutual. All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said there had been real excitement and energy in the All Blacks camp this week: “There’s huge anticipation at what lies ahead on Saturday and the team is certainly looking forward to the challenge of the weekend.
“However, for us it’s about making our own statement. It’s a great opportunity to assess where our game is at and we’re really looking forward to it.”
But still, the coaches are only an aside to the on-field play. Neither man will be less proud of their camps, with a win or a loss. That element of the game – respect in rugby – is still a key value of the game.
Teams named for thrilling #ENGvNZL encounter
Much has been drawn from the teams named for this #ENGvNZL test. From the hardened England rugby side, fresh from Premiership and European Professional Rugby Club fixtures, to the traveling giants of the game.
One side have needed to repair some damage to the armour. A few links have had to been filled in – injury to the Vunipola brothers, robbing World Rugby of the fearsome brothers facing New Zealand. And the All Blacks have needed to rest 23 of their frontline troops, so as to be fully prepared to tackle the challenge on Saturday.
But the line-ups are each ‘world class’. It makes for a rugby-feast this weekend.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 8, 2018
Some will say that the above team does not have the strike-power of their guests. But, do not let that fool you. Eddie Jones knows that to defeat the visitors, his side need to play wisely – otherwise, an open (and possibly foolish approach) could create space and opportunity for New Zealand.
Discipline too will be a key factor. Referee Jérôme Garcès will be stringent on the rulings, with his assistants and the TMO all likely to play their part. Any culprits will need to be aware that penalties or time off-the-park will be costly.
Keeping the game tight is important for the hosts as well. Especially when the opposition has scored four or more tries in their last 13 International matches.
That makes the below side, a threat to every opposition team. And looking to avenge the 2012 defeat to England at Twickenham, fans can be sure that the expectations (from such a rugby-famine) will certainly be filled.
All Blacks: Damian McKenzie, Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Reserves: Dane Coles, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty
— 1 NEWS – Sport (@1NewsSportNZ) November 8, 2018
Knowing all this, plus the intrigue of the strong-willed head coaches – and the former-All Blacks coach John Mitchell being an assistant to Jones – the fixture is truly one that stands out.
Ireland v New Zealand next week is the ultimate battle for the number one world ranking. The All Blacks have held their place for six years straight….the same amount of time between #ENGvNZL matches. The last test was in 2014, so a famine of rugby can soon be corrected.
So coincidentally, this match is truly a rugby-feast!
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“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images