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Like a bloke getting the first round in, outwardly thrilled to be kicking off the party but internally wincing at the dent his 7-pint order will make in his wallet, England fans celebrated last weekend’s win over South Africa with a sense of quiet foreboding. What comes next won't be pleasant.
On Saturday, we’ll need to see that same selfless commitment at the bar mirrored in 23 brave men in white if England are to log their first win over the All Blacks in six years. With much coveted ‘momentum’ up for grabs as we countdown to Japan, this is a truly massive test for Jones’ slightly ragtag squad of newbies and knackered vets.
You prepare yourself for the crush at the bar, we’ll prep you with talking points for the big game:
1. Can England play from the first minute?
Last weekend’s outing against South Africa saw England weather a brutal storm, enjoying less than 20% territory and possession respectively
Remarkably, they were able to keep the scoreboard closer than JD and Turk throughout, with some wayward play handing England several get out of jail cards. The Springboks spurned chances with three handling errors and four stolen lineouts in England’s 22 within the first 35 minutes alone.
The world’s most dominant sports team, boasting a 91% win rate lest we forget, are unlikely to be anywhere near as generous on Saturday. If England decide to turn up 50 minutes late again against New Zealand, there’s every chance they’ll be chasing a cricket score when they do.
2. Dominating The Contact
With one of the first attacks that England managed, no less than 50 minutes into the game, against South Africa, Ben Te’o collided with Siya Kolisi attempting to run the ball out of his own 22. Twickenham Erupted.
England had been emphatic in defence during the onslaught of the first half but parking the South African captain on his backside was the big hit that the fans were craving.
More of the same with be needed from the very first whistle to stop the likes of Sonny-Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane building up a head of steam. Thankfully, Te'o's more than up to the task physically.
The Auckland born Worcester Warrior will most likely be preferred to assume wrecking ball duties, but there may well be the tasty inclusion of a certain Manu Tuilagi off the bench. Leicester’s wall of meat is in line for his first international game in two years. Here’s hoping for a few tradmark hits, the type that a felt from the commentary boxes.
3. Captain, my captain?
So, who leads the team out? Well, the captain should, but having two people for one role has seldom worked. I'm of the opinion that a first-place podium shouldn’t be shared, two voices making the ‘final call’ can be deafening whilst you’d be hard pushed to persuade your significant other that two is better than one. So why then do England find themselves with two ‘co-captains’, both of whom possess considerable leadership flaws?
Whilst no saint in terms of discipline, Hartley seems better suited to the job. The hooker’s issue under Jones has always been time on the pitch - his starting role is by no means certain and he’s almost always the first man hauled off for fresher legs at the 55-minute mark.
Whilst Farrell is nailed on for the full 80, he plays an unflinchingly fierce version of the game and lacks the serenity of thought that made someone like Sam Warburton a master at managing officials. With other enforcers emerging in the England pack, has the time come for a rethink of who leads the team on the pitch?
4. Squad Depth
The All Black’s squad that took on Japan in Tokyo last week saw 22, from a possible 23, changes from the team that turned over the Aussies a few weeks earlier. In an undeniable show of strength, however, fans around the world were treated to an enthralling 10 try feast.
The notable introduction of Richie Mo’unga at fly-half, notching an impressive 22 point haul, may not have done enough to dislodge Beauden Barret, but the power of Ngani Laumape scoring three George Bridge running home two on debut could well be enough to see them feature in Steve Hansen’s plans this week.
The 15 names lining up against England on Saturday will be vastly different to those against Japan. However, with England fielding a back row against South Africa that had less than 10 caps between them, time will tell if fielding fresh faces through necessity can compete with those there through sheer luxury.
5. Curbing England’s Enthusiasm
While Maro Itoje’s well-deserved sin bin in the first half against South Africa actually saw England reduce the deficit by three points, England are in for a long day at Twickenham if they cannot rein in their discipline on Saturday.
Repeating the 6 penalty infringements seen in the opening quarter against the Boks is a death wish, with Beauden Barrett currently looking hot off the tea, slotting 11 of his last 12 kicks.
Physical games can easily slip into cynical games and finding that middle ground right above 'the line' will be a critical factor here. Owen Farrell’s brief flirtation with the rules, saved by a flailing afterthought of a left arm, won the game at Twickenham. Against an All Black side this good, Eddie Jones will need those marginal calls, and plenty others to go his way if England are to cause an upset this week.
6. Grab Your Free Guinness
Remember, checking in on Saturday bags you a free pint of Guinness to enjoy during the week. Whilst not everything is worth sharing, Autumn International Saturdays certainly are.
Not redeemed the free pint you earned last Saturday yet? Remember, you've got until 10pm on Friday to do so in over 1000 pubs. Check the 'prizes' section of the app to see yours.