England v New Zealand: Stuart Lancaster's side set to push world champions again

Manu Tuilagi was a huge threat for England in the opening Test against the All Blacks
Manu Tuilagi was a huge threat for England in the opening Test against the All Blacks

Simon Mail previews the second Test where he thinks England can again push New Zealand all the way after their narrow opening defeat...

"The All Blacks are capable of blowing away most teams but this has the makings of another tight battle."

New Zealand v England
Saturday June 14, 08:35 
Live on Sky Sports 1 

England came agonisingly close to shocking the All Blacks last weekend after a superb performance at Eden Park. Stuart Lancaster's side pushed them all the way with an understrength team and led for much of the match. But New Zealand escaped with a flattering 20-15 victory after a late try from Conrad Smith.

There is no doubt which team came out of the opening Test with more credit. While the hosts looked particularly rusty in their first game of the year, England were extremely impressive as they defied popular opinion which suggested they could be on the end of a hefty defeat. The visitors were much sharper but whether that is the case in Dunedin is questionable.

For one thing, New Zealand can hardly play as badly again and a significant improvement from the world champions has to be expected. The All Blacks are notoriously slow starters in their first game of the season and should raise their level drastically this weekend. Steve Hansen will be relieved his side won but will know a much better display is required to avoid the series being levelled.

England have rung the changes for this weekend's game with Owen Farrell returning at fly-half despite an excellent performance from Freddie Burns. Scrum-half Danny Care is fit to start while Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell start in the centre. This means Manu Tuilagi is shifted out to the wing in an interesting gamble which could pay off. 

Lancaster's decision to break up last week's team is understandable. After all, many of his first choice players were unavailable due to the Premiership final between Northampton Saints and Saracens. It may seem a bit harsh on the team which pushed New Zealand so hard in Auckland. But with the World Cup just 15 months away it just shows England have plenty of strength in depth to challenge next year.

The All Blacks are forced into a change with full-back Israel Dagg injured. Ben Smith slots into this position while Julian Savea has recovered from a knee problem to return to the side. This could certainly help New Zealand because Savea has a superb track record. The wing will offer a genuine threat to England and has a prolific record with 19 tries in 20 Test matches. 

England's performance in the first Test has narrowed the gap in terms of the handicap offered but the visitors still look worth taking with an 11-point head start. Lancaster's side should take so much belief and confidence from last week's effort and are bolstered by the availability of their strongest squad. Whether England can do enough to tie the series and force a decider next week remains in doubt though. 

Ultimately New Zealand are still the best team in the world and must surely perform better than in their first run-out. The All Blacks are capable of blowing away most teams but this has the makings of another tight battle. A narrow home win looks the best value bet and it could also be worth backing Savea to continue his excellent scoring record on his return to the side.

Recommended Bets

Back England +11 in the Sportsbook at 2.255/4
Back New Zealand to win by under 12.5 points at 2.829/5
Back Julian Savea to score in the Sportsbook at 2.111/10

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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