Johnson: England must end All Blacks misery
November 5, 2010
England's pack prepare for the physical battle against New Zealand on Saturday © Getty Images
Martin Johnson has called on his England players to overturn recent history on Saturday and end seven years of hurt against New Zealand.
Johnson was captain the last time England downed the All Blacks - 15-13 in driving Wellington rain on the pre-World Cup tour of 2003 - since when they have lost eight on the bounce.
New Zealand arrive at Twickenham as the world's number one side but they had a 15-Test unbeaten run ended by Australia in Hong Kong last weekend. But Johnson knows England will need to produce their best performance of his two-year regime if they are to topple the Tri Nations champions.
Johnson said: "It is a long time since England have beaten them. That is because they are good. They don't like losing to England. You always expect the All Blacks to play well. I have never seen them play badly. They might play poorly by their own standards but they are a very consistent team.
"We know it is going to be a real battle. We will get physically and mentally tested. Everything will be tested and we have got to be up for it. We have to be realistic. We will have to play the best this team has played in a Test match to beat these guys. We have the confidence and belief in what we do.
"The team is developing very well. What we know about the players is far better after the tour. The squad is in a pretty good place."
England are in the unusual position of taking their inspiration from France, who beat New Zealand in Dunedin last year and at the Millennium Stadium in the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Otherwise, it is only New Zealand's Tri-Nations rivals Australia and South Africa who have succeeded in beating the All Blacks since the summer of 2003.
"New Zealand are the best side in the world and they have been setting the standards for a while," said England No.8 Nick Easter. "But Australia beat them last week, South Africa did it three times last year and France beat them more regularly than any other northern hemisphere side.
"That is a record we want to put straight tomorrow. We are fresh, raring to go and we believe in what we are doing. It will be tough tomorrow but at the end of the day it is just us against them. We have to get stuck into them from the off. Some of the rugby (in their game against Australia last week) was scintillating stuff and we firmly believe we can play to that intensity."
England's defence coach Mike Ford stoked the fires in the build-up to the Test by claiming the try-laden Tri Nations lacked the intensity of proper international rugby.
The All Blacks won the southern hemisphere title without dropping a game but Ford warned New Zealand to be prepared for an "old-fashioned" showdown at Twickenham. Ford's comments riled the All Blacks management, prompting head coach Graham Henry to label them "ridiculous" while Steve Hansen declared New Zealand would be prepared to meet England head-on.
"If you allow yourself to be intimidated you go through life meekly and don't achieve the things you want to achieve. Rugby is no different," said Hansen. "We can mix and match our game. You don't become the number one side in the world if you don't have more than one bullet in the gun."
England do not deny the need to pull the shutters down on a dangerous All Blacks back division, marshalled by the supreme Dan Carter and now featuring former rugby league star Sonny Bill Williams.
Additionally, Hosea Gear starts on the wing for the All Blacks fresh from scoring a hat-trick in the Maori's 35-28 victory over England's midweek team in June. But Johnson insisted England, who beat Australia 21-20 on their last Test outing, will have more to their game than simply attempting to strangle the life out of the All Blacks.
"Despite where Mike is coming from with his defensive hat on, we are not slaves to playing in any one way," said Johnson. "Guys need to play heads up, what's in front of them. If the space is not where we thought it might be, we need to attack it. Any structure we have is there to enable our players to play.
"We have told the guys they are not a slave to any structure. We will attack them when the time is right but if the heads-up rugby tomorrow is to kick the ball because there is space in their back-field and it is raining, then we will.
"Winning Test matches is what we are here to do and we will do it in any way is the most efficient way. We have some real ability and dynamism in our forward pack and we need to use it."
England have made just one change from the victory over Australia, with Andrew Sheridan back from a year out injured to start at loose-head prop.
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