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Ex-England flyhalf says Crusaders downfall means series win over the All Blacks a 'realistic chance'

By Ben Smith
England's fullback Freddie Steward (L) scores a try during the Autumn Nations Series International rugby union match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham stadium, in London, on November 19, 2022. (Photo by Ian Kington / AFP via Getty Images)

Former England flyhalf Freddie Burns believes that a 2-0 series win over the All Blacks by England is a ‘realistic chance’ as New Zealand rugby goes through a ‘transition period’.


The Premiership-winning No 10, who completed a stint in New Zealand with the Highlanders just last year, spoke with Jim Hamilton on The Big Jim Show ahead of the final between the Northampton Saints and his old club Bath.

When asked if England could go down and do something against the All Blacks, Burns was optimistic after a stellar season from Northampton who are expected to have a number of starters in the England XV.

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“Yeah I think so, I think the most important thing is the combinations you are starting to see,” Freddie Burns told The Big Jim Show.

“That England backline will probably load up on a lot of Saints players, so there is already that cohesion.

“We’ve already spoke about it, the debate around who plays at No 10. I’d go Marcus [Smith], give him a run at it.

“But it wouldn’t surprise me with the combinations with Mitchell and Fin Smith whether they stick to that.”


England first travel to Japan to face former coach Eddie Jones and the Brave Blossoms before travelling further south to the cold of Dunedin to face the All Blacks for the first visit since 2014.

The first Test against England will be new coach Scott Robertson’s first game in charge of the men in black. But despite the All Blacks landing the super coach, Burns believed the key player losses suffered opens the door for a historic England tour.

From the 23 that played in the Rugby World Cup final last November , the All Blacks have lost Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock to retirement, Shannon Frizell and Richie Mo’unga to Japanese rugby, while Will Jordan is out with injury along with others like Sam Cane who has been in Japan.

“That Japanese game is going to be tough in the heat, they get through that they’re down in Dunedin for the first Test,” Burns said.


“New Zealand rugby is going through a bit of a transition at the minute. The Crusaders aren’t the force that they used to be, aren’t quite that same force.

“I think England have a realistic chance to go down there and upset a few people and come away with at least a series draw, if not a series win.”

Expanding on his logic, Burns believed that the downfall of the Crusaders this year in Super Rugby would influence the All Blacks’ performances.

For so long the Crusaders have provided the bulk of the All Blacks players, and after a catastrophic 4-10 season, they won’t be the backbone of the side this year.

In the same way that a strong Leinster provides a strong Ireland side, the Crusaders are the bloodline for the All Blacks.

“It’s more the change of guard. I know Beauden Barrett went back to the Blues after the Japanese season, I’m not sure whether he can play,” Burns said.

“It’s that transition period, Mo’unga’s gone abroad, they’ve lost that combination and the Crusaders for so long were stacked with the All Blacks.

“Similar to Leinster with Ireland, and that’s no longer there anymore.

“I don’t think New Zealand are going to be the same force. Are they going to be a roll over? Of course not. It’s going to be a hard Test series.

“But I think it’s England’s best chance to get something done.”

England’s last victory over the All Blacks was the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final in Japan, with only one Test played since then which ended with a 25-all draw at Twickenham in 2022.

England have won just twice in 15 Tests on New Zealand soil, with the last coming in 2003 with Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson plotting a 15-13 victory in Wellington.

The other English victory was in 1973 at Eden Park where the visitors prevailed by 16-10.


Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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Ben 10 days ago

Same old story with England…..think they can but deep inside they know it will not happen

David 10 days ago

Quite clearly haven't seen the hurricanes , chiefs and blues play . Although crusaders by their ridiculous high standards have been shite , they were getting good . Their pack was always dominating and with players coming back they almost made the playoffs. However to say England will or could win 2-0 is just ridiculous , considering how shite England were during the nations. NZ will batter England that is no question about it .

Shane 11 days ago

History show that when Auckland ruby is strong and dominating, All Black’s are unbelievable! Plus we now have Razor! 1😁🤘

Scott 11 days ago

The forward pack will still have a core of Crusader forwards in the tight five as in the past:
Codie Taylor
Fletcher Newell
Tamatai Williams
Scott Barrett
Quentin Strange

Ethan Blackadder, Sevu Reese, and by Rugby Championships, Will Jordan are all sure fire All Black selections.

Possibly add Cullen Grace at blindside and Noah Hotham

Nickers 11 days ago

It’s an exciting prospect. England will arrive with a strong pack, who will be more experienced than NZ’s by some distance. They will also have more continuity in game plans and strategy than NZ. We know they will bring the best impersonation of SA’s blitz defence which was looking very effective by the end of the 6N. Robertson will have a young and inexperienced pack, and a number of players who will not be familiar playing together. I think we know what England will do, and where they wull attack us. A very difficult challenge for Razor’s first tests for sure.

SadersMan 12 days ago

NH pundits love punditing punditry nonsense.

I don’t think the Crusaders have ever been an accurate-ish onfield barometer for ABs performances. We never won SR for 8 seasons under Blackadder & yet the ABs still managed b2b RWC wins over this time. Conversely, the remarkable Razor Crusaders era didn’t translate into global success for the ABs.

A key connection though is that Razor has 4 Crusaders coaches in his ABs coaching team; Jase Ryan, Scott Hansen. Tamati Ellison, & Rangi MacDonald. Unproven as a team at this level, of course, but a point worth mentioning given the premise of this article.

Exciting times ahead, not long now.

Jon 12 days ago

Former England flyhalf Freddie Burns believes that a 2-0 series win over the All Blacks by England is a ‘realistic chance’ as New Zealand rugby goes through a ‘transition period’.
No, he doesn’t. You can listen to the aftermatch here on one of RPs videos. Its just a bunch of leading questions from Big Jim, nothing to do with Burns at all.

monty 12 days ago

Burns predictions is certainly not outlandish, theyr a quiet reminder NH has come along way. I believe the English tour here will be more entertaining than the irish sa clashes. Sure the saders missed out by the skin of their teeth. If they had the fortunate luck of 1 more pool game then without doubt they’d be in the playoffs. However the other franchises have more than made up with the exciting mix of talent up for selection, let’s not forget our new rock star coach razor.

Perthstayer 12 days ago

Kiwis should be glad Underhill isn’t coming. He was a beast in final at w/d.

Lou Cifer 12 days ago

This is definitely England’s best chance of getting an extremely rare series victory in NZ with all their stalwarts now gone & a coupla others not available for whatever reason.

With all that said…..15mins into the 1st test and 2 bounces of the ball go NZs way (which it usually tends to down there😁) and England are down 17-0 with the crowd going crazy….poof….series gone

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