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England target place in history
The series may have already been decided after two narrow New Zealand wins in Auckland and Dunedin.
But don’t even think about suggesting to Stuart Lancaster’s young England side that the third and final Test in Hamilton is a dead rubber.
THE ULTIMATE SCALP
Captain Chris Robshaw says the chance to do what only two other England touring sides in history have done – win a Test match against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil – is motivation enough.
But with no tour to the land of the long white cloud scheduled until after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, this may be the last chance some England players get to add arguably the biggest scalp of them all to their rugby CV.
“Only two English teams have ever come here and won so we’ve still got an opportunity to do something special,” said Robshaw. “We want to leave achieving something and we’ve got a chance to do that.
“A lot of us probably won’t get the opportunity to come here again as a touring party. It’s a long time away until England come here next. We’ve got nothing to lose.”
England lost last weekend’s match by a single point but Lancaster has decided to freshen up his side again, with seven changes made to his selection as he looks ahead to next year’s World Cup.
Winger Chris Ashton gets his first start since last November, while Kyle Eastmond, who gave a dazzling display in the first Test, returns at centre alongside Manu Tuilagi – who reverts to his regular position after last weekend’s stint on the wing.
Freddie Burns, another player to shine in the narrow 20-15 first Test defeat, replaces the injured Owen Farrell at fly-half alongside scrum-half Ben Youngs, while hooker Dylan Hartley, lock Courtney Lawes and number eight Billy Vunipola get their first starts of the tour.
“It has been a great opportunity to work with a wider group of players and test many of them at the highest level in the build up to the World Cup,” said Lancaster.
“I am confident the players selected for Saturday will go all out to achieve the win.”
ALL BLACKS AGENDA
A match against the All Blacks seldom needs any additional spice adding, but another factor to weigh into the equation is the fact the home side are seeking to equal the world record – jointly held by the New Zealand side of 1965-69 and the South African team of 1997-98 – of 17 consecutive Test victories by a top-tier nation.
New Zealand have only lost one Test match at the Waikato Stadium, which will host the match, while England’s only experience of playing there was an 18-10 defeat at the hands of the Kiwis’ A side on the infamous Tour of Hell in 1998.
The All Blacks have ran in 64 tries in their 10 Tests at the venue, but this young England side have already shown they have the hunger and skills to challenge the world champions and emulate England’s previous victories on New Zealand soil in 1973 and 2003.
Get behind-the-scenes news from the England team on tour in New Zealand with Player Diary from O2 in partnership with England Rugby, at www.O2InsideLine.com