Preview: England v New Zealand

England believe they can beat the All Blacks on Saturday and Billy Vunipola knows exactly why: ‘We trust in Eddie’.

England believe they can beat the All Blacks on Saturday and Billy Vunipola knows exactly why: ‘We trust in Eddie’.

In Eddie Jones, England have a head coach who has made a habit of beating the best.

Five times in 11 meetings he downed the All Blacks when in charge of the Wallabies, including in the 2003 World Cup semi-final.

Then last year he led the Red Rose to within Courtney Lawes’ big toe of downing them once again at Twickenham.

There does appear to be something special building out here in Japan for England, they have cruised into the final four, winning every match by an average margin of 31 points.

But it is going to be a whole lot closer than that on Saturday night in Yokohama, you would think.

This All Blacks side, while perhaps not the all-conquering vintage of four or eight years ago, are still the best in the business.

You only have to look at the way they have already dispatched both South Africa and then, in spectacular style last weekend, Ireland to know that.

But England have Jones on their side, they also have picked a matchday 23 shot through with 2017 Test Lions that claimed an historic series draw in New Zealand two and a half years ago.

The fear factor is gone, according to Jones, who has made only one change to the side that downed the Wallabies so impressively in Oita, but it is a big one.

George Ford returns to the No.10 shirt he wore with such distinction during the pool stages, with Owen Farrell sliding to inside centre, Manu Tuilagi to No.13 and Henry Slade to the bench.

It was in the No.13 shirt that Tuilagi destroyed the All Blacks back in 2012, but England have not beaten the world champions since then in six encounters.

This time around though the All Blacks have a fresh-faced look to them, particularly in the back line where only Aaron Smith remains from the starting back line that won the semi-final against the Springboks four years ago.

But there remains an experienced core, after all skipper Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock and Sonny Bill Williams are all hoping to make it an unprecedented three World Cup crowns in a row.

Head coach Steve Hansen has sprung one surprise, inserting Scott Barrett into the back row instead of Sam Cane as he looks to repeat the lineout domination that characterised their fightback at Twickenham 12 months ago.

But England will be ready on Saturday, Jones has admitted he has been preparing for this game for two and half years since the draw was made.

There is no harder task, arguably in world sport, than toppling the All Blacks but England believe. Now we just need to see it.

England v New Zealand, Saturday October 26, Yokohama, Kick-off 9AM (BST)

England head coach Eddie Jones on the All Blacks aura: “I don’t think they are vulnerable but pressure is a real thing. The busiest bloke in Tokyo this week will be Gilbert Enoka, the mental skills coach.

“They have to deal with all this pressure of winning the World Cup three times and it is potentially the last game for their greatest coach and their greatest captain and they will be thinking about those things. Those thoughts go through your head. It is always harder to defend a World Cup and they will be thinking about that and therefore there is pressure.”

Jones on England’s progression over his four-year tenure: “Owen might remember the first meeting we had, we said we wanted to be the world’s best team. You could see the ability was there, we just needed to change a few things, change the way we train, the way we play, the way we think. We have progressively done that over four years, and we have put ourselves in a good position.”

England No.8 Billy Vunipola on his head coach: “We haven’t beaten them but it almost helps you and fires you up, motivates you to go out there and change the course of history.

“He always knows how to do it. It might not happen consistently, but he has the formula so trust in Eddie and hopefully it leads to a good performance.”

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen: “What he (Jones) needs to work out is what are England going to do about the pressure they’re under. Because they’ll have memories about a tournament four years ago that didn’t go that good – so they’ll be under immense pressure themselves.

“So to say they’ve got nothing to lose, Eddie doesn’t believe that either. They’ve got a whole four years work resting on one outcome so they get the opportunity to go and play another game which will have the same amount of pressure on them.”

Hansen on the selection of Barrett at blindside flanker: “I’m not going into too much depth about that because otherwise we’re giving Eddie some information that he’ll probably be able to work out pretty quickly himself. Obviously, it’s strategic; it’s not on form. Sam Cane is playing lovely rugby.”

Two of the very best in the business go head to head in the second row on Saturday.

Of course, there are huge match-ups everywhere you look but the battle in the boiler room should be pivotal.

Retallick has recovered from shoulder surgery this summer, and his all-round skill-set makes the All Blacks a much stronger side with him in it.

Itoje has been superb this World Cup, his minutes have also been managed this year meaning the two should be at full noise on Saturday.

The All Blacks dominated the lineout in the second half of their last clash, so the battle in the sky will be one to watch.

But in truth, these two locks are modern day polymaths with few if any discernible weakness – should Itoje get the upper hand then England’s chances of victory increase vastly.

England: 15. Elliot Daly, 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Manu Tuilagi, 12. Owen Farrell (c), 11. Jonny May, 10. George Ford, 9. Ben Youngs, 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Courtney Lawes, 6. Tom Curry, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Billy Vunipola Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Dan Cole, 19. George Kruis, 20. Mark Wilson, 21. Willi Heinz, 22. Henry Slade, 23. Jonathan Joseph

New Zealand: 15. Beauden Barrett, 14. Sevu Reece, 13. Jack Goodhue, 12. Anton Lienert-Brown, 11. George Bridge, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 9. Aaron Smith, 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Scott Barrett, 7. Ardie Savea, 8. Kieran Read (c) Replacements: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Ofa Tuungafasi, 18. Angus Ta’avao, 19. Patrick Tuipulotu, 20. Sam Cane, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Sonny Bill Williams, 23. Jordie Barrett