Preview: England v New Zealand

It’s a match that has been four years in the making but finally Eddie Jones’ England and Steve Hansen’s New Zealand will face off on Saturday.

It’s a match that has been four years in the making but finally Eddie Jones’ England and Steve Hansen’s New Zealand will face off on Saturday.

A year ago all the talk was about England – back-to-back Six Nations champions – chasing down the All Blacks and looking to claim their No.1 spot in the world rankings.

When a large England contingent went over to the Land of the Long White Cloud last summer and emerged with a drawn three-Test series the excitement began to grow still further.

But since then Jones’ side have hiccoughed while Hansen’s have hit the pedal – England finished fifth in this year’s Six Nations and went on a five-Test losing streak that included two defeats in South Africa this summer.

The All Blacks swatted France aside and claimed yet another Rugby Championship crown and arrive in south west London for the first time since 2014 eager to flex their muscles as the best in the business.

But England have restored some confidence of late – back-to-back wins over the Springboks, the first in Cape Town in June and the second at Twickenham last weekend, have set them back on course.

And these All Blacks are not invincible – the Boks proved that in Wellington this summer and could have done the double over them in Pretoria.

England do have injuries – that has been well-documented – but their inexperienced pack grew into the game against South Africa last weekend.

This Saturday Ben Moon is promoted to start for the first time for his country while Sam Underhill replaces the injured Tom Curry at openside.

But the marquee inclusion is the return of Chris Ashton on the right wing for his first start since 2014 – against the All Blacks.

Steve Hansen’s side have prepared well with a third crushing win of the year over the Wallabies and an extended preparation in London while their second-string squad downed Japan last weekend.

And their side is fully locked and loaded with lock Brodie Retallick back fit – their starting XV seems only really to be missing Sam Cane and Joe Moody from what would be a full-strength side.

England have it all to do – but memories of that famous day in south west London back in 2012 are still fresh enough and Jones’ men are ready to impose themselves.

England v New Zealand, Twickenham Stadium, London, Saturday 10 November 3pm GMT     Eddie Jones (England head coach): “Every chance you get to play against New Zealand is something in your rugby life you never want to regret.

“For our players there’s a chance to change English rugby history. That’s the opportunity for us.

“Against New Zealand the 80 minutes are important. Jack Nowell has got an incredible work rate so we feel he’ll be enormously valuable for us in the last 20 minutes.

“But Chris (Ashton) can sniff a try from anywhere. To beat New Zealand you have got to score tries. He’s in good form and has looked sharp, so we’ve given him the nod to start.”   Steve Hansen (All Blacks head coach): “I don’t know who is writing England off, you’d be foolish to do that. Does it put pressure on us? No. There’s already pressure on us. The one constant thing about being in the All Blacks is you’re under pressure.

“You’re expected to win every Test match you play and win it really well. Once you come to realise that, life becomes a little easier. It does at times give you an advantage because when other teams are put under pressure of having to win big games they haven’t experienced that as much as maybe we have.”   Key battle: Ben Te’o v Sonny Bill Williams   There are any number of mouth-watering match-ups this Saturday at Twickenham.

But perhaps the one that catches the eye the most is the battle of the two former rugby league NRL stars at inside centre.

Ben Te’o and Sonny Bill Williams have both been beset by injuries this year but appear to be returning to full form and fitness at the right time.

The duo traded some serious blows in the first Test of last year’s Lions tour to New Zealand, both like to get on the front foot and can produce an eye-catching offload in attack and hit hard in defence. Expect fireworks to fly.   Stat watch   – Eddie Jones has an impressive record of five wins from 11 matches against the All Blacks as a head coach but this will be his first meeting with them since taking over with England – This is the first meeting since November 2014 – a 24-21 victory for New Zealand at Twickenham, England have lost the last five meetings since their 38-21 win over New Zealand in December 2012. – The All Blacks have scored four or more tries in their last 12 Tests and Rieko Ioane has 13 tries in his last 11 Tests – Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock have only ever lost two Tests as All Blacks when they start together in the second row – the first was back in 2012 against England at Twickenham and the second was last year’s second Test against the British & Irish Lions – However, England have won 15 of their 16 home Tests under Eddie Jones. Their only defeat was a 24-15 reverse against Ireland on 17 March.    England: 15. Elliot Daly, 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Ben Te’o, 11. Jonny May, 10. Owen Farrell (co-captain), 9. Ben Youngs, 1. Ben Moon, 2. Dylan Hartley (co-captain), 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. George Kruis, 6. Brad Shields, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Mark Wilson Replacements: 16. Jamie George, 17. Alec Hepburn, 18. Harry Williams, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20. Courtney Lawes, 21. Danny Care, 22. George Ford, 23. Jack Nowell   New Zealand: 15. Damian McKenzie, 14. Ben Smith, 13. Jack Goodhue, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. Aaron Smith, 1. Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Sam Whitelock, 5. Brodie Retallick, 6. Liam Squire, 7. Ardie Savea, 8. Kieran Read (captain) Replacements: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Matt Todd, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Richie Mo’unga, 23. Ryan Crotty