Coach talks up rivals before Twickenham showdown, writes Greg Leedham
England coach Stuart Lancaster has told his players to brace themselves for the visit of the best team in international sport.
Lancaster’s men host world champions New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday, with England the only side to beat them in the last 33 Tests.
In that light, Lancaster believes his players will need to raise their game for a challenge that cannot be found anywhere else in a sporting arena.
“New Zealand have become probably the most successful team in world sport,” said Lancaster, whose team surprised New Zealand last December by securing an impressive 38-21 victory.
“I would have to say this is the best New Zealand team because of their record and what they have achieved on the back of winning a World Cup.”
Since that defeat, New Zealand have won the Rugby Championship unbeaten and they arrive at Twickenham on another impressive winning run.
“When teams win a World Cup they traditionally take a dip, maybe rest on their laurels, but they have managed to retain the hunger and desire to keep winning,” Lancaster added.
“The Rugby Championship is a very tough tournament to win and they have done that twice now. In world sport, could you tell me a team that has a record like that internationally? I don’t think any of the football teams have got it, Spain for example. In cricket no-one has it. So, yes, this is the best team.”
Elsewhere on Saturday front row Gethin Jenkins will clock up 100 caps for Wales. The Cardiff Blues prop is set to join Welsh centurions Stephen Jones, Gareth Thomas and Martyn Williams when he runs out against Millennium Stadium visitors Argentina.
It is 11 years since Jenkins, who will be 33 on Sunday, featured for his international debut against Romania on a Friday night in Wrexham.
Asked about his most memorable moments, Jenkins replied: “Probably the Grand Slam game of 2005 against Ireland sticks out — just for the simple fact I scored a try!”
Scotland take on South Africa on Sunday and Proteas lock Bakkies Botha is expecting a difficult test. “The Scottish team ended third in the Six Nations last year and they are a phenomenal side,” he said.