Irish are better but pummelling England remains priority for All Blacks
Last updated 08:42, June 28 2018
England coach Eddie Jones and Ireland coach Joe Schmidt have a building northern rivalry but the real world order will be found when they play the All Blacks in November.
OPINION: It’s a tricky choice: Pummel England while they are down or give the rising Irish a reality check?
Demanding All Blacks fans will insist Steve Hansen’s world champion outfit do both on their November tour north.
As the European powerhouses take their summer off after contrasting efforts on the just-completed June test series south of the equator, England coach Eddie Jones and Irish counterpart Joe Schmidt will have the All Blacks on their minds.
It wasn’t that long ago that everyone was screaming for the New Zealand v England match to be fast-forwarded given the spectacular rise of the men in white under Jones. It was a juicy No 1 v No 2, north v south battle to sort out the true world order.
All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams bamboozles English defenders at Twickenham in 2014, the last time the two teams met.
Six months of English misery has changed that – a Six Nations nightmare, embarrassed by their own British Barbarians and and bashed up by the Boks, Jones’ mob have slipped to No 4 in the rankings and massive pressure has been placed on their outspoken Aussie coach and his methods.
In contrast, Kiwi Schmidt has quietly taken Ireland on a grand slam run through the Six Nations and emphasised their deserved No 2 ranking with a gutsy test series win against the Wallabies in Australia.
But you sense that little has changed in the Kiwi mindset.
The dread of being the first All Blacks team to lose to Ireland no longer exists after Kieran Read’s 2016 side were upset by the men in green in Chicago.
When the All Blacks head to Britain later in the year for consecutive tests against England (November 10 in London) and Ireland (November 17 in Dublin), it’s the men in white who will matter most.
The Twickenham clash has a few months to simmer, the date in Dublin will only have a week to boil.
Jones hasn’t lost his voice or his confidence during this alarming dip.
The best way to muzzle him will be to dish out a beating at “HQ”. Given that England also face South Africa and the Wallabies in November, this could be the defining month for Jones’ shaky hold on his job.
The All Blacks need to deliver a statement performance to set things straight.
This encounter has been a long time coming, a ridiculous wait since 2014 which says a lot about the way international rugby is organised.
A poor patch of form by England hasn’t dampened the New Zealand desire to put England in their place, especially less than a year out from the World Cup.
When it comes to annoying opponents, England top the list. There’s an acknowledged hatred by Kiwi players, a deep-rooted rivalry that is based more around a colonial order than any rugby rankings.
There will be plenty of feeling when the All Blacks and England finally do meet and a fierce determination to prevent Jones from regaining his full swagger.
He operates in direct contrast to the understated Schmidt who has quietly engineered a well-timed revival by Ireland, emphasised by a gritty effort Down Under.
The All Blacks will head to Dublin freed of the millstone that has hung around their necks for so long – the unbeaten record against the Irish disappeared in Chicago a couple of years ago.
They can now forget the past and focus on the present – and the future – with the men in green appearing to be a real World Cup threat with their building form.
The reality is the Irish represent the more danger right now. But when it comes to victory the most pleasure will come from beating England.
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