Former All Black says ‘England can be really confident’ heading into July series

With the Six Nations all wrapped up, attention now shifts to the next slate of men’s international Tests, which for England and the All Blacks is July’s Steinlager Series.

Two of the world’s most storied rugby nations are set to collide for a series in New Zealand for the first time since 2014, and while England will be heading into the series as the first opponents of the new Scott Robertson-led All Blacks, the Kiwis will have the benefit of the Six Nations footage to study.

England finished third in the tournament thanks to a statement win over Ireland as well as victories over Italy and Wales, but while toppling a dominant Irish outfit proved their potential, losses to France and Scotland found some significant cracks in the English armour.

That performance against France in what was essentially a playoff for second place saw England take the lead with five minutes remaining before a 78th-minute penalty from Thomas Ramos stole the win in Lyon.

It was a spectacle, but also another example of where both sides need to improve according to former All Black James Parsons.

“I just thought it was a great game of rugby, went down to the wire obviously, full of attacking flair,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod. “But, it’s the consistency for both teams (that’s the issue).

“Not only week to week, but throughout the game; those peaks and troughs and how long you remain in them is going to be critical.

“But, from an All Blacks point of view as well, I think England can be really confident with the opportunity they have coming down here.

“They seem to be in a good groove attacking-wise but defensively, yes against Ireland they had a little lower percentage, but they held the French to 36 per cent gain-line success. We know when the French go well they’re a 55-60 per cent gain-line team because of their miraculous threats of (Antoine) Dupont and that.”

The last time the two met, New Zealand was enjoying a 19-point lead with 10 minutes remaining when England sparked into life and produced a stunning comeback, ultimately falling just short of snatching victory to leave the game tied as the full-time whistle was blown.

Another scoring outburst was produced against France last weekend, with 21 points scored in the six minutes on either side of halftime. Parson’s co-panellist, Super Rugby champion Bryn Hall said the team’s gemini traits can be expected come July.

“What I’ve seen over the past couple of matches, is they’re going in between two identities with their kicking game,” Hall added. “If they don’t get that momentum, they do go to that contestable game, which I think you do need at the international level. I think you can’t play full tongs for the full 80, you’ve got to have the ability to stunt momentum through your kicking game, kick chase and effort areas, which I think they’re really, really good at.

“I think Marcus Smith coming on very early, he and George Ford interchanging, him being at fullback as well and being able to punch onto the ball flat and getting the ball in his hands in that second pivot role I think is really, really good for England.

“The likes of (Sam) Underhill and (Ben) Earl getting over that advantage line nice and flat, it’s a great DNA for their attacking ability. They’re coming down to New Zealand, you’d like to think they’d like to replicate that attacking ability that they’ve had in the Six Nations.”


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