Legendary All Black Richie McCaw believes that the confidence Eddie Jones has restored to England poses the biggest threat to the All Blacks ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
McCaw, who was capped 148 times by New Zealand, led his country to World Cup triumphs in 2011 and 2015. He has identified traits in England that have been constant in the great All Blacks sides and senses that Jones’s men, perhaps for the first time since Sir Clive Woodward’s side were crowned world champions in 2003, genuinely believe they can become the No.1 side in Japan.
New Zealand’s first match against England in four years, at Twickenham next November, has been described as one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures in the build-up to the World Cup.
McCaw believes the All Blacks, having used 2017 as a foundation year for Japan, must pull ahead again to nullify England’s attempt to hunt them down.
ones’s side have lost just once in 22 tests since he took charge in 2016, moving up to second in the world rankings. New Zealand enhave just dured their worst year since 2009, suffering two defeats and one draw in 14 tests, including the British and Irish Lions tour.
The match at Twickenham will be one of the acid moments in the battle for world supremacy. In the 15 test matches between the sides since Woodward’s side inflicted a famous defeat on New Zealand in Wellington in June 2003, England have managed just one victory, the 38-21 win in December 2012.
“I think England are getting confidence with how they are playing,” McCaw said. “There is no doubt Eddie has instilled some confidence in what they are doing and they are playing rugby that is pretty smart.
“I suspect that the English are probably at that point where they do actually think they are on the right track.”
McCaw has already picked the brains of coach Steve Hansen about the merits of New Zealand’s year and he has been impressed by the ability to juggle huge expectation for winning with the need to bring through younger talent.
He uses New Zealand’s 33-18 win over Wales in Cardiff in November as an example of the side’s ruthlessness, a winning instinct he recognises in Jones’s England now too.
“It was a real arm wrestle and the All Blacks didn’t have a lot of ball but they got one or two opportunities in the first half and bang, they made it count,” McCaw added.
“In these top-level games, there is not a lot between the top teams. It is about opportunities that come and being able to nail them.”
And England? McCaw recognised similar attributes in their 30-6 victory over Australia at Twickenham. “Again, teams compete with them for a while – if you look at the Aussies – and then when the opportunity came to bang the nail, it was 30 points to six and you wonder, ‘How did that happen?'” he added.
Yet, in McCaw’s final analysis, there are words of warning for England. “Rather than looking over your shoulder about who might be coming, you have to keep looking forward at where and how you can be better because you know that everyone else will be better.”