Lancaster: We must impose our game on All Blacks

STUART Lancaster wants his England players to view the daunting task of playing New Zealand as an opportunity rather than a prospect to fear.

Dan Cole

Eleven months on from their humbling at the hands of Lancaster’s side, the All Blacks return to Twickenham with an even greater aura of invincibility.

They have not lost since then, that one aberration being their only defeat in 33 matches.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The manner in which they have repeatedly swept aside the best of the rest from the southern hemisphere, winning 12 successive matches in the Rugby Championship, has got seasoned observers calling them the greatest team in sport, let alone rugby.

Throw in the fact that they have a score to settle from their last visit to south west London, and they represent formidable visitors to Twickenham.

But Lancaster requires his players to relish the opportunity to pit their wits against the finest collection of players on the planet.

“We are playing against the best team in the world, probably the most successful team in world sport, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to prove we are developing as a group,” said Lancaster.

“They will have huge motivation to beat us after last year, but you have to believe you can win going into any game and this one is no exception.”

England go into tomorrow’s game buoyed by their growing resilience, having found ways to defeat Australia and Argentina on the previous two Saturdays.

A rare clean sweep of November appointments is tantalisingly close, but they will need to quell a free-flowing attack led by Dan Carter, who wins his 100th cap.

“They have a great two-sided attack and a fantastic kicking game,” said Lancaster, who takes his team to New Zealand next June for their summer tour.

“Their ability to contest the ball aerially is exceptional. They play in the right areas and they have threats all over the pitch.

“We recognise the work our back three will probably have to do, but we also have to impose our game on them. We have put pressure on teams in the past. We made Australia struggle for decent front-foot ball.

“It’s a great challenge. We are excited about it and it will be who delivers under pressure on the day who will win.”

Dan Cole is the only change made by Lancaster to the team that defeated the Pumas.

The Leicester prop is recalled at tighthead, with England missing Alex Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola, who are troubled by knee complaints. Northampton Saints last night confirmed that Corbisiero is to have knee surgery.

“It is hugely disappointing for Alex to miss out,” said Lancaster.

“It’s a big blow. Losing him and Vunipola means we have two 
Lions props that are unavailable.

“But it’s a great opportunity to look at other players and test them against the best side in the world. I’m confident they will deliver.

“We want Dan’s experience to start with, but I’m delighted with David Wilson’s contribution this season, especially his ball-carrying, and I’m sure he’ll make an impact later in the game.”

Joe Marler has successfully completed his return-to-play protocols after being concussed against the Pumas so continues at loosehead, packing down alongside Dylan Hartley, who wins his 50th cap.

Lancaster added: “It’s a great achievement for Dylan to reach 50 caps. We are a young side, but one that is growing with every game and it’s important to have leaders like Dylan.”

Stockton-on-Tees-born lock Geoff Parling will come off the bench for the second week running, but Leeds-born scrum-half Danny Care drops out of the 23 to make way for the returning Ben Youngs.

England learned earlier in the week that centre Manu Tuilagi, who took the fight to the All Blacks last year with a rip-roarer of a try, is facing a lengthy injury lay-off, last year but Lancaster preferred to focus on the chance for centres Billy Twelvetrees and Joel Tomkins to impress.

“We are in the here and now and it’s about those two delivering,” said the former Leeds coach, who appears content to persevere with a midfield partnership that is yet to fire on all cylinders.

Lancaster knows that a strong showing against the All Blacks will boost confidence for the challenges that lie ahead, namely the forthcoming Six Nations championship which is less than three months away, and the 2015 World Cup on home soil.

“The whole context of building a team to try and win a World Cup is about momentum,” he said.

“It’s also about putting the pieces of a jigsaw together.”

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has hailed Carter as a “special, special” player as the fly-half prepares to join the All Blacks’ 100-club. The 31-year-old will become just the fifth New Zealander to reach a century of caps.

Hansen said: “For any All Black to be able to sustain a career long enough to play 100 games is a special player, but he is probably one of the special, special ones.

“He has been pretty frustrated over the last 18 months with injury, but he seems to be on top of that at the moment and he is deserving of the honour.”

England: M Brown (Harlequins); C Ashton (Saracens), J Tomkins (Saracens), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), B Foden (Northampton); O Farrell (Saracens), L Dickson (Northampton); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Vunipola (Saracens). Replacements: T Youngs (Leicester), M Mullan (Wasps), D Wilson (Bath), G Parling (Leicester), B Morgan (Gloucester), B Youngs (Leicester), T Flood (Leicester), A Goode (Saracens).