In Brief

England vs. New Zealand: All Blacks go on spying mission at Twickenham

Eddie Jones was wrong-footed by the All Blacks who were in the stands last weekend and not eating scones

England vs. New Zealand
  • When: Saturday 10 November 
  • Where: Twickenham Stadium, London 
  • Start time: 3pm 
  • TV channel: live on Sky Sports Action

The All Blacks went on a “secret scouting mission at Twickenham” last weekend, spying on England’s narrow 12-11 victory over South Africa.

The New Zealand Herald says that Ben Smith and Brodie Retallick were among a group of All Blacks who passed up the chance to receive free tickets from the Rugby Football Union (RFU), and instead slipped into Twickenham to sit among fans and “get some intelligence on the enemy they will face on Saturday”.

England head coach Eddie Jones was aware that New Zealand had declined the offer of free tickets from the RFU, assuming that the players had preferred to watch the Springboks match in the warmth of their Teddington hotel, “drinking cups of tea, maybe having some scones, saying ‘oh, we'll take these guys’.”

Scouting not scones

But Jones has been wrong-footed by the All Blacks, as second-row Retallick gleefully revealed to the New Zealand Herald.

“We were actually at the stadium so we weren’t having scones like he suggested, or a cup of tea,” he said, saying of the contest they saw. “It was physical, it’s probably not the style of rugby we’re used to but they’re extremely good at what they did. I thought they did a great job.”

Smith said watching a Test in the cheap seats was a novel experience, but an interesting one, all the same. “It was a wee bit weird being at a Test like that and not being involved - just watching the opposition - but it is a great experience going to Twickenham,” said the winger.

Pressure’s part of the job

Meanwhile New Zealand coach Steve Hansen refused to rise to the media’s bait and stoke up the rivalry ahead of Saturday’s much-anticipated clash - the first time England will play New Zealand in four years.

Asked if Jones would be under the greater pressure given England’s poor record this year, Hansen told Sky Sports: “There’s a lot of pressure there, all the time, whether you’re winning or losing. It just comes in a different wrapper.”

The Kiwi was also keen to emphasise the warmth of the relationship with his England counterpart. “We usually talk either by text or by phone, probably every second week,” said Hansen. “It’s always good to have other people who are doing a similar role to yourself to be able to talk to… you’ve got to have some form of relationship that allows you to get on with each other.

“You don’t ring people up you don’t like, just because they are doing the same job as you. So it probably indicates I like him and he might like me; I don’t know.

“The bottom line is we talk, our wives talk, and that’s not surprising. I think he’s a good bloke.” 

England are good

England haven’t played New Zealand since 2014 when they faced the world champions four times and lost on every occasion.

The All Blacks are the favourites for Saturday’s encounter but Hansen described his respect for England and for their coach.

“He’s had some success against New Zealand in the past, but hopefully he doesn’t get any on Saturday,” Hansen said of Jones. “They are a good rugby team. They won 18 in a row, only one other side in the world has ever done that. So it makes them a good side.”

Autumn international fixtures and TV guide

Saturday 10 November
  • 2pm: Italy vs. Georgia (Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence; live on Premier Sports
  • 2.30pm: Scotland vs. Fiji (Murrayfield, Edinburgh; live on BBC One
  • 3pm: England vs. New Zealand (Twickenham, London; live on Sky Sports Action
  • 5.20pm: Wales vs. Australia (Principality Stadium, Cardiff; live on BBC Two
  • 6.30pm: Ireland vs. Argentina (Aviva Stadium, Dublin; live on Channel 4
  • 7.45pm: France vs. South Africa (Stade de France, Paris; live on Premier Sports)

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