England have been told that tackling the might of New Zealand is a “brilliant challenge” as the countdown to next year’s World Cup gets underway at Twickenham today.
Stuart Lancaster’s side look to end a four-game losing streak against the current world champions in what will be the two teams’ last encounter before the race for the Webb Ellis trophy begins next September.
The All Blacks have lost just twice since winning the World Cup on home soil three years ago.
England were the first team to inflict defeat on New Zealand with a rousing win at Twickenham in 2012, since when they have lost four successive times to Richie McCaw’s men, including a 3-0 whitewash in June.
But England’s attack coach Andy Farrell insisted: “We’re not looking back to what happened in New Zealand, it’s just the next game against the best team in the world which is a brilliant challenge.
“Of course there are lessons that were learned from the tour, but the challenge for us is playing the No 1 team in the first game of a season of international rugby that will be very important.
“Our challenge is to make sure that we are up to speed and not just hanging in there, but in control of the pace, intensity and quality of the game ourselves.”
Fiji-born Semesa Rokoduguni, the serving British Army soldier who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, debuts for England.
Brian Moore’s verdict on England and Lancaster: Page 7