- Get up to speed on EnglandRugby.com's coverage
- Check out the key clashes, quotes from the camps and more
As a general rule in sport, rarity breeds intrigue – the build-up to a Rugby World Cup every four years is a prime example of how feverish excitement greets an uncommon event. However, familiarity can also enhance the spectacle. When two teams are aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses, the tactical tussle becomes compelling.
At Twickenham on Saturday, England and New Zealand clash for the fifth time in a calendar year. Stuart Lancaster’s charges have an immediate chance to exorcise the frustration of June’s 3-0 series whitewash Down Under, while the All Blacks can reinforce their superiority.
Whatever the outcome, a fascinating opening to the QBE Internationals is in store. If the last two meetings between the sides on these shores – England's glorious 38-21 victory in 2012 before a gut-wrenching 30-22 defeat a year later – are anything to go by, we should have a fast-paced, high-scoring thriller on our hands.
In terms of personnel, the subplots are numerous. Captains Chris Robshaw and Richie McCaw go head-to-head at openside. Out wide, debutant Semesa Rokoduguni goes up against Julian Savea in a mouth-watering duel between two brilliant finishers. Read our preview to get clued-up and whet the appetite.
When? Saturday, November 8
Where? Twickenham Stadium
How to keep up with the action
- Live on SKY Sports 2 from 1.30pm. Regular updates on BBC Five Live
- Live text commentary and in-game stats on EnglandRugby.com
- Live score updates from @EnglandRugby on Twitter
- Match report, post-match highlights and interviews on EnglandRugby.com
15. Mike Brown, 14. Semesa Rokodugunu, 13. Brad Barritt, 12. Kyle Eastmond, 11. Jonny May, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Danny Care; 1. Joe Marler, 2. Dylan Hartley, 3. David Wilson, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Courtney Lawes, 6. Tom Wood, 7. Chris Robshaw (captain), 8. Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16. Rob Webber, 17. Matt Mullan, 18. Kieran Brookes, 19. George Kruis, 20. Ben Morgan, 21. Ben Youngs, 22. George Ford, 23. Anthony Watson.
15. Israel Dagg, 14. Ben Smith, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Aaron Cruden, 9. Aaron Smith; 1. Wyatt Crockett, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Richie McCaw (captain), 8. Kieran Read.
Replacements: 16. Keven Mealamu, 17. Ben Franks, 18. Charlie Faumuina, 19. Patrick Tuipulotu, 20. Liam Messam, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Beauden Barrett, 23. Ryan Crotty.
Danny Care vs Aaron Smith: It is no exaggeration whatsoever to say that Care’s RBS 6 Nations campaign represented the richest form of his career. Mixing ambition and verve with measured accuracy and composed organisation, the Harlequin hit the world-class bracket. His tries inspired England past Ireland and Wales, earning justified comparisons with the best scrum halves on the planet. Unfortunately, a freak shoulder injury – sustained after tripping over his own feet in training – denied Care a chance to take on Smith in Auckland’s first Test.
Still just 25, the Highlander is central to this All Blacks side. His box-kicking is often inch-perfect for the likes of Savea and Ben Smith to contest. His distribution is extremely slick and some intelligent support lines, not to mention stratospheric fitness levels, allow him to be a scoring threat as well. Eleven tries in 36 internationals makes for an eye-catching strike-rate. The tussle between these two number nines should be fascinating.
Dave Attwood vs Brodie Retallick: Attwood became the squad's newest dad on Wednesday when fiancée Bridget gave birth to the couple’s first daughter, three weeks after Care's son Blake arrived in the world. A first Test start since June 2013 provides a congratulatory present, and the Bath Rugby lock is determined to translate a string of brawny cameos into a domineering performance from the first whistle. The 27 year-old will demand the highest standards of himself in all aspects – from solidity at set-piece through to energy in the loose and the contact area. And that will be absolutely necessary given the prowess of his opposite number.
Retallick has perhaps been the most influential performer in international rugby this year. Just as Kieran Read stormed to the IRB Player of the Year award in 2013, this outstanding second row seems set on global domination. Standing over two metres tall and tipping the scales at 121 kilograms, this 22 year-old would not look out of place as a third boxing Klitschko brother and unsurprisingly brings mighty muscle to the tight exchanges. It is dexterity and athleticism though, not to mention awareness of when to make a pass, that make Retallick so integral to New Zealand’s all-court game. Throw in Courtney Lawes and Sam Whitelock and the engine-room exchange becomes a very special one.
Brad Barritt vs Conrad Smith: Lightning pace and bullocking power saturates either backline on Saturday. Jonny May and Rokoduguni of either wing represent England’s attacking ambition, while Savea and Sonny Bill Williams epitomise the bristling authority of the All Blacks. Among the blockbuster weapons though, any team needs unfussy organisers. On Saracens duty, Barritt has made a total of 58 tackles this season, missing just one. That statistic sums up his immense reliability, and a win percentage of 64 from his 18 international appearances is commendable. An unselfish grafter who personifies the Lancaster era – making his debut at Murrayfield in its first match – he will glue England’s structure in place so those either side, Kyle Eastmond and Rokoduguni, can thrive.
Smith is one of McCaw’s lieutenants, a model of consistency whose under-the-radar excellence so often hauls New Zealand over the line. A short-range try at Eden Park five months ago shattered England hearts and his vision and accurate skill-set has created All Black scores for a decade. At 33 with 83 Tests already behind him, he may well ride off into the sunset after the upcoming World Cup. Still, the practicing solicitor will not let his razor-sharp competitive edge be blunted until the day of retirement comes.
Quotes from the camps
Andy Farrell (England Backs Coach): “Our lads know the next step is to win consistently at the highest level.
“We were lucky enough to delay [EPS] selection so we could gauge the players’ form over the first six weeks of the season. That meant they came into camp in high spirits, happy with their own game.
“That said, they also realise that there will be a step up in intensity under the white-hot pressure and scrutiny of international rugby.”
Steve Hansen (New Zealand Head Coach): “Every time you read something, [England] are telling us that Twickenham is a fortress.
"I think they are trying to build that mentality in themselves and, through that, make us get that mentality too.
“We have to brush that aside and just see it as another ground.”
- June 2014: New Zealand 36 England 13, Hamilton
- June 2014: New Zealand 28 England 27, Dunedin
- June 2014: New Zealand 20 England 15, Auckland
- November 2013: England 22 New Zealand 30, Twickenham
- December 2012: England 38 New Zealand 21, Twickenham
Did you know?
- This will be the 40th meeting between England and New Zealand – England have won seven, drawn one and lost 31 so far.
- Semesa Rokoduguni has carried the ball for Bath Rugby 53 times in all competitions. He has beaten 34 defenders and made 14 breaks on the way to six tries.
- Julian Savea’s strike-rate of 29 tries in 30 Test matches is superior to that of Jonah Lomu – the iconic wing had dotted down 17 times at the same stage of his career. Joe Rokocoko bettered both with 30 from his first 30 All Blacks appearances.
- Wearing the number one jersey again on Saturday, Joe Marler has started 20 of England’s last 22 Tests.
- Since Steve Hansen took charge at the end of 2011, New Zealand have lost just twice in 39 games. However, excluding Saturday’s thrashing of the USA, their average winning margin has dropped from 19 points (June 2012-November 2013) to nine points (November 2013-October 2014).