Borthwick and England braced for acid Test against New Zealand

Steve Borthwick and his England players must endure rugby’s version of a dental appointment against New Zealand tomorrow; they know the experience is going to be painful but have been assured that it will have long-term benefits.

Having allowed South Africa to register a record-breaking 42-6 win last Saturday, Borthwick and his team complete their ridiculously tough autumn Test series by facing an All Blacks side chasingonly their third grand slam.

Martin Johnson, the team manager, and his coaching staff have spent the week accentuating the positives from that defeat by South Africa.

Focussed: Borthwick

Focussed: Borthwick

For example, they enjoyed 68 per cent possession and put together, on a number of occasions, phases of play that saw them recycle the ball up to 15 times.

By the end of those explanations, it felt as if England had been within a whisker of victory instead of suffering a beating, the like of which Twickenham had never seen before.

Of course, England have to be upbeat because to dwell on the enormity of the task at hand would be hugely counterproductive.

This young and talented team are short of confidence and the ability to turn possession into points.

They make silly errors too close to their own posts, struggle to create quick ball against more streetwise packs and gift opponents turnover ball.

As a result of these basic failings, the boos came thundering down from the stands at the final whistle last Saturday and it was an understandable reaction from supporters used to better things.

Even when England have failed in the past they have, at least, shown an ability to hurt the opposition in some areas of the game.

The pack could drive the maul and the outside-half would put his team deep into the opposition 22 with a succession of well-executed tactical kicks.

While it didn’t rewrite the coaching manual at least the record books did not require updating for the wrong reasons.John Wells, the England forwards coach, is so frustrated he would welcome a return to the days when players could use their studs to ruck opponents off the ball.

Under today’s laws a player would either be yellow carded or sent off if he gave one of the All Blacks a 'tickle of the sprigs'.

Instead, England have to be more streetwise at the breakdown, a facet of their play that was exposed by the South Africans.

Autopsy: Martin Johnson and Borthwick will look to improve on last week's performance against South Africa

Autopsy: Martin Johnson and Borthwick will look to improve on last week's performance against South Africa

Unable to boot-a-Bok and with­out the firepower up front to blast the opposition out of the way, England were reduced to complaining to a referee who had other things on his mind.

Consequently, England were bedevilled by slow ball and it was a major contribu­tory factor in Danny Cipriani’s demise and why Toby Flood has been recalled at No10 tomorrow.

Flood can kick further and with better accuracy than Cipriani, whose game is still coming together after his broken ankle.

With Richie McCaw, the All Blacks captain, certain to get his hands on the ball all too often, England have to accept they will get precious little quick ball and will need Flood to kick them out of their own half.

England have to kick and chase with more intensity and precision or else full-back Mils Muliaina and powerful wings Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu will cut them to pieces.

Backs coach Brian Smith fervently believes the England runners can not only create but finish off try-scoring chances despite considerable evidence to the contrary against Australia and South Africa.

Before the All Blacks step onto the Twickenham pitch, they will sit and listen to a short history lesson in their dressing room. It will detail the extraor­dinary life of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to conqueror Everest and who is commemorated in a special Shield that will be handed to the winner.

Wayne Smith, the All Blacks attack coach, wants each of his players to reflect on how one New Zealander made history and then he will expect the best team in the world to go out and clinch a grand slam of wins over the Home Nations.

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