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'You never mention the word risk' - England backline ready for All Blacks

By PA
George Furbank of England runs through training drills during an England training session at North Harbour Stadium on July 01, 2024 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

George Furbank insists England will hunt for opportunities against New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday as they look to continue sharpening their attack.

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Steve Borthwick’s tourists followed a rousing end to the Six Nations against heavyweights Ireland and France by plundering eight tries in their summer opener against Japan.

World Cup runners-up New Zealand will provide a sterner test than anything faced so far this year, but Furbank insists England must retain the courage to play they discovered during the Championship.

“There’s definitely a sense of seeing opportunities and then backing ourselves to take them,” Furbank told reporters in Auckland.

“We’ve got a very exciting young backline who want to be able to do that and the coaches have fully bought into that as well.

“We’ve got some very good and accurate kickers and some wingers who are pretty happy going and getting the ball back in the air. That’s a big strength of ours that’s clear to see.

“We’ve added some really good layers on to our attack as well. We’ve got a better understanding now as a group of where we want our attack to go and what we want our attack to look like.”

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England sprang a surprise a fortnight ago by naming their team to face Japan 48 hours early – and Borthwick could take the same bold approach in the build up to the first of two Tests against the All Blacks.

While players appreciate knowing earlier in the week where they stand with selection, the move was also seen as a sign of Borthwick’s growing authority in his role as head coach as a well as a tactic to minimise mind games from Japan boss Eddie Jones.

Changes are expected to be kept to a minimum following that 52-17 win, with Marcus Smith continuing at fly-half and while the Harlequins playmaker will oversee the attack, he is likely to be operating amid a core of Northampton’s Gallagher Premiership champions in Furbank, Alex Mitchell and Tommy Freeman.

The trio have helped energise England with the ball in hand and in an irony for New Zealand, it is one of their own who inspired the Saints trio after Chris Boyd spent four years as director of rugby at Franklin’s Gardens until 2022.

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“It was about playing to space. You never mention the word risk with him,” Furbank said of the 65-year-old former Hurricanes boss who transformed Northampton’s playing style.

“It was always a decision and if you’re making the right decision, whether that be on your own try-line or the opposition try-line, he’s going to back you to do that. It’s about seeing that decision in the first place and backing yourself to execute it.

“He gave us a sense of freedom to go and play. Some coaches potentially make you worried about making mistakes, whereas this was a new philosophy and one that helped the young guys coming through.

“The All Blacks are happy to go from anywhere on the pitch. If they see an opportunity they’re going to back themselves and I’ve been lucky enough to play at a club that has implemented a similar sort of thing.”

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