England v New Zealand
New Zealand wary of England
November 23, 2008
New Zealand's haka will make one final appearance on this tour at Twickenham next weekend © Getty Images
New Zealand have been put on alert for a possible England backlash next Saturday, with All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu claiming: "We will have our hands full."
The tourists are one win away from completing a successful grand slam trip following victories over Scotland, Ireland and Wales, scoring 83 points and conceding no tries. England, battered beyond recognition by South Africa yesterday, now represent the final challenge of a year that has seen New Zealand emphatically underline their position as rugby union's world leaders.
The All Blacks have won three of their last four Twickenham Tests against England, and they will go into battle as red-hot favourites. But 64 times-capped hooker Mealamu said: "We will have our hands full next weekend. We've got to make sure we recover well and be up for another physical match next Saturday."
And flanker Jerome Kaino, a try-scorer against Wales, added: "The job isn't done yet - we are not going to read too much into the South Africa scoreline. The loss against South Africa will fire England up, but we want to finish this tour on a high note.
"We are one week away from what would be a big accomplishment, and we are all focusing on that."
New Zealand warmed up for England by producing a second-half masterclass against Wales, recovering from 9-6 adrift to score 23 unanswered points. And it was a performance that drew unstinting praise for his players from All Blacks boss Graham Henry.
"I thought they were superb in the second half, which was probably the best 40 minutes of rugby we had produced all year," he said. "It was a hell of a good Test match that was mightily competitive.
"It takes time to win a Test match, and I think it showed a lot of character from the side. To hang in there under pressure and come through is a mark of that character. We scored 23 points to none in the second half, and that is huge.
"A lot of the guys watched the Kiwis' rugby league World Cup win on Saturday morning, and they were stimulated by that. And it probably put a wee bit of edge on our performance.
"We will watch the England game (against South Africa) and start to analyse them. There will be some depression in England after that result. Martin Johnson has got a lot of character, and I have a lot of time for him. He will take things on the chin and get on with things, because that is all he can do.
"It will take time for things to get where he wants to get to. People need to be patient."
Henry, meanwhile, believes Wales have a good chance of ending their autumn series with victory over Millennium Stadium visitors Australia next Saturday. The former Wales coach added: "They were a very good Welsh side who played a lot of good rugby and troubled us a lot. They will be disappointed with the result, but they should be proud of their advances in the game.
"I think Wales are in with a decent shout of beating the Australians next week."
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