The man who helped mastermind England’s last victory over New Zealand fears there will simply be no escape for the vulnerable hosts at Twickenham today.
Phil Larder was one of Clive Woodward’s trusted assistants when thrilling England stunned the revered All Blacks with a 31-28 success at HQ in 2002.
It was only a fifth victory over the famed opponents yet the following year they would memorably repeat the feat in New Zealand too as part of their build-up to ultimate World Cup glory.
Those, of course, were halcyon days for England which have yet to be matched.
Today it is rampant New Zealand who are world champions and, remarkably, have not been beaten in 20 Tests.
England are in a state of transition under Stuart Lancaster who only has victory against Fiji as reward for his squad’s endeavours in these autumn internationals.
Larder – who was England’s defence coach from 1997 to 2006 – can see no respite this afternoon.
“Personally, I do think this All Blacks side are streets ahead of every other team in the world and are playing an absolutely superb brand of rugby,” he told the Yorkshire Post last night.
“To me, they are playing very much like we see in the north of England with rugby league – all their forwards can handle the ball, run and offload.
“They play 15-man rugby while the majority of others, including England, are still having to select two or three players just for their ability in the set-piece who don’t offer much with the ball.
“They are a great team to watch. I don’t think England will win; I just hope they perform.”
Larder, 67, has offered Lancaster encouragement, though, and believes the Red Rose can develop sufficiently to challenge for the 2015 World Cup.
“Like a lot, I’m disappointed with the way England are playing,” he added, after narrow defeats against Australia and, again, versus South Africa a week ago.
“But I always remember when Clive took over – and I was appointed almost straight away – it took us four years really to kick off.
“We had a pretty disappointing World Cup in ‘99 and it makes you realise when a new coach comes in, like Stuart has, that things need time to blend.
“He virtually has a completely new coaching team with Catty (Mike Catt) and Faz, (Andy Farrell) and he’s finished with virtually all the experienced players that Johnno (Martin Johnson) had in the 2011 World Cup.
“They were so close last week. Okay, they lost 16-15, but if you take away the result and look at the way they played, England were fairly close to winning against the second best team in the world.
“If they put up a decent performance against New Zealand you have got to say give them another year at least and hopefully we’ll fare better in the Six Nations.”
There will be plenty of eyes on Owen Farrell this afternoon as the 21-year-old Saracens player has been called in at fly-half to face the imperious Dan Carter.
Larder, who coached Keighley Cougars, Sheffield Eagles and the Great Britain rugby league side before switching codes, added: “He has got a lot of similar traits to Jonny Wilkinson.
“Farrell is very tough, very competitive and has got that great ability to perform on the big stage.
“His goalkicking is superb and he doesn’t seemed to be fazed by pressure.
“But to me, he doesn’t create enough and that’s the major problem with England at the moment; they have two centres and a 10 who don’t cause the opposition enough problems.
“Certainly, if I was organising a defence against them, I wouldn’t be too worried. Aside from (Manu) Tuilagi’s direct running, there’s not too much threat there.
“Then look at the All Blacks with Carter who runs the show, his ability to take the ball to the line and create space, all those runners coming off him... they must be a nightmare to defend against,” he said.
Back in 2002, the New Zealand player giving everyone nightmares was Jonah Lomu.
“The thing I always remember about that match was Austin Healey had been complaining he should start rather than being on the bench,” recalled Larder.
“He went to see Clive on the Thursday and in a good-natured way complained we’d not seen the best of him as we were only bringing him on for the last five.”
He added: “Anyway, with about 10 to go, Clive decides to bring Aussie on.
“He thinks he’s going on at scrum-half but gets told he’s on the wing and asks ‘which one?’
“I said ‘right’. He just says ‘Bloody hell’.
“He knows he’s marking Lomu, the last person anyone wants to mark.
“With virtually the last play of the match, they have a line-out on the far side and Aussie’s psyching himself up 90 per cent certain the ball will find Lomu.
“But Lomu angles infield and he follows him – the All Blacks send a flash-ball out wide to the full-back to sail straight through the gap.
“All our bench were standing up thinking we’re going to lose but I was the only one who was relaxed.
“I realised Ben Cohen was coming across from the other flank like any good winger should and he crashed him into touch.
“I knew we’d win. It was a terrific bunch of players. We’d beaten Australia, South Africa and New Zealand all on the bounce.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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