Simon Mail previews the first World Cup semi-final with a mouthwatering clash between England and defending champions New Zealand...
"England have it all to do to topple the All Blacks and history is not on their side. New Zealand have won the last six clashes between the teams and have only lost one of their last 16 meetings."
England v New Zealand
Live on ITV
England peaking after Wallabies win
England surged into the World Cup semi-finals in style but Eddie Jones' side face the toughest possible test this weekend in Yokohama with defending champions New Zealand standing in their way. There is no doubt England are in excellent shape, seemingly peaking in Japan, although only their best will be enough to threaten the All Blacks.
After breezing through the pool stage, they were expected to be pushed by Australia but the Wallabies were dismantled in Oita. A 40-16 win for England is their biggest margin of victory in a World Cup knockout tie and gives them huge belief and momentum heading into the last four. Jonny May scored two quick first-half tries while Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson ruthlessly punished Australia.
It was an exceptional performance although England, who are bidding to reach their first final for 12 years, were aided by critical mistakes by their opponents. Jones will know his team will not be handed these opportunities against the All Blacks. But with players such as Billy Vunipola, Manu Tuilagi and Maro Itoje they have the power and pace to cause New Zealand significant problems.
Irresistable All Blacks demolish Ireland
Only a few hours after England's dominant display, New Zealand surpassed this in their 46-14 destruction of Ireland. They were in awesome form, scoring seven tries to bring Joe Schmidt's tenure to a disappointing end. Scrum-half Aaron Smith scored twice and New Zealand's outstanding attack was unstoppable during their one-sided quarter-final.
New Zealand are bidding to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the third successive time and it is difficult to find weaknesses based on their form in the competition. Steve Hansen's side overcame second favourites South Africa in their opener and have won their other three games with plenty to spare. New Zealand have not lost a World Cup match since their quarter-final defeat to France 12 years ago.
Hansen has made an unexpected change to his team with flanker Sam Kane dropped and Scott Barrett brought in for his first Test start in the back row position. The decision appears to be a move designed to target England's line-out. Beauden Barrett continues at full-back with Richie Mo'unga again starting at fly-half.
England have it all to do to topple the All Blacks and history is not on their side. New Zealand have won the last six clashes between the teams and have only lost one of their last 16 meetings. England's sole success during this run came in 2012 at Twickenham, although they did push them extremely close in last November's match with New Zealand securing a 16-15 win. This is one of four matches in their last five meetings where England have either been winning or drawing at half-time so a bet on the outsiders in the first-half handicap appeals.
New Zealand are worthy favourites but England have the ability to push them all the way in this semi-final. England's dynamic pack will test the All Blacks but if they reproduce their brilliance against Ireland it is difficult to see them losing. Six of England's last seven defeats to the world champions have been by no more than ten points and New Zealand are backed to edge a pulsating encounter to reach the final.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
P/L 2019-20 season
Back New Zealand to win by 1-12 points at 2.727/4
Back England +3.5 to win the first-half handicap @ 8/11 (Sportsbook)