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World Cup winner ‘really optimistic’ about England upsetting All Blacks

By Finn Morton
Captain Jamie George of England speaks in the huddle after the team's 52-17 victory in the LipovitanD Challenge Cup match between Japan and England at National Stadium on June 22, 2024 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England haven’t beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since June 14, 2003, but Rugby World Cup winning centre Will Greenwood is “really optimistic” about that changing this weekend.

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It’s an exciting time for rugby in New Zealand with the national team set to get their new era under Scott Robertson underway on Saturday evening [local time] in Dunedin. This is the All Blacks’ first Test under the coach who seems to win wherever he goes.

But while the All Blacks wait patiently at the starting line of their season, England are already a fair way down the running track as they continue to show promise in the wake of their third-place finish at last year’s Rugby World Cup.

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England snuck by Italy and Wales with two unconvincing performances to open their Six Nations campaign in February, but they finished their tournament much-improved against Test heavyweights Ireland and France.

Steve Borthwick’s men recorded a stunning upset at Twickenham in March when they defeated an Ireland team formerly on track for the Grand Slam. The following week, England went down swinging against France in Lyon.

The English have only played one more Test between now and then, and that was an utterly relentless 52-17 win over Japan in Tokyo just over one week ago. They’ve shown enough this year to leave an England Rugby great feeling positive about their shot at history.

“Ever since that World Cup and the draw that we were given which allowed us to have a crack at the Springboks and go 15-6 up, and we had the game almost in the palm of our hands, and then come back off that [by] beating Ireland at home,” Greenwood said on SENZ Breakfast.

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“It’s not quite a brave new dawn yet. I don’t think we’re all singing up saying ‘we’ve cracked it, we’re on the way up’, this is now going to be an inexorable march towards glory in Australia in 2027.

“But I do feel now that, A, we are a difficult team to play against. I think they are pretty… battle-hardened… all that sort of uncomfortable customer and with it now have found a little bit of fluidity in the backline.

“[George] Furbank moving to 15 gives them that opt-out, that bail-out that they can go to width and space. He’s a real baller, he’s a proper player Furbank.

“It’ll be two tough Tests… if you’ve got a kid who can play at 15 then that opens the outshot for Smith to go crossfield. That then options up, puts some width on the pitch and suddenly Ollie Lawrence can attack an inside shoulder and go short.

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“They’ve found two or three different ways to attack… I’m really optimistic. I’m a tough judge but I gave them an eight-out-of-10 in Japan.”

England played five matches during the illustrious northern hemisphere Six Nations earlier this season and added another Test to their schedule against the Brave Blossoms. They’ve played six matches this year while the All Blacks haven’t played one.

Marcus Smith will lead the team around the park from flyhalf while veteran hooker Jamie George will captain the side once again. It’s a star-studded starting side which also includes the likes of Ben Earl, Maro Itoje, Alex Mitchell and Henry Slade.

“I think they come to New Zealand with a shot in the first Test,” Greenwood added.

“You guys are six-to-one odds so an extraordinary betting price. We’re going it on Sky and I’m really excited about being in studio and watching an unbelievable Test match.”

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Comments

2 Comments
J
Jmann 18 days ago

Best realistic chance they’ve ever had in NZ I’d say.

T
Toaster 19 days ago

Crikeys it’s non stop out of the England camp and media

I know how good England are but I forgot how satisfying it would be if we beat them

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