Rugby Union: All Blacks confront easier task: Northern lights dim

A PLEASANT thought for the All Blacks: after having to penetrate the very core of their inner belief to beat the Midlands and South-West, things might just get easier when they complete the divisional set against the North of England at Anfield today.

This is not to disparage the North, who produce plenty of good rugby players - only to find many of them heading for the city lights. Take Rob Andrew and Will Carling: both were in the North team who beat the Wallabies in 1988; five years on, both cock-sparrows were in the London team trounced by the Blacks.

The contrast between the high-profile types who turned out against New Zealand in the first three tour matches and the more motley crew who represent the North could scarcely be greater. Kevin Simms, last capped in 1988, may be one of only four England internationals in the side but he plays down in the Third Division. There are five players from the Second and even one from the Fourth.

This would be all right if the whole were greater than the sum of the parts, but the evidence from last year's North- South Africa game was that the sense of identity which the North had far more than any other division can no longer carry them through. In fact, Rory Underwood is the only current international in the side and, however suspect the Black midweekers may be, that lack of quality is bound to count.

However well David Scully may have been playing, the North could have done with Dewi Morris's combativeness round the forward fringes, since the injured England scrum-half's point of strength is precisely where the Midlands and South-West took on and matched New Zealand. And where London did not.

'The main point about playing New Zealand is the need to be realistic and take the right options,' Mike Slemen, the North coach, said. 'There are times when you simply have to kick the ball. London were guilty of trying to run poor- quality ball and against these lads that's something you cannot do.

'Which is not to say we have to kick everything, but pragmatism is the quality we must show, together with a solid defence. Even the All Blacks don't look so comfortable when the ball is put behind them and they have to go back and defend.'

The trick is not simply to do that but to turn it to sufficient scoring advantage, and neither the Midlands nor the South- West did so. As Slemen was on the wing when the North beat New Zealand in 1979 and when England did in 1983, this is something he knows from first-hand experience.

A crowd of 25,000 is anticipated at Anfield, and although there will therefore be empty spaces in a stadium used to holding up to 45,000, that is still an impressive measure of the All Blacks' pulling-power - not least compared with the 14,000 who turned up at Elland Road to see the Springboks a year ago.

As no rugby union ground could have coped with the demand, this time the North turned first to Old Trafford and, when that became unavailable, to Liverpool FC. But then this game is more than something special; according to the North committee man, Malcolm Phillips, an England centre of the rather distant past, it is 'the biggest rugby union game in the North this century'.

NORTH: I Hunter (Northampton); J Mallinder (Sale), K Simms (Liverpool St Helens, capt), M Fielden (Northampton), R Underwood (Leicester); P Grayson (Northampton), D Scully (Wakefield); M Hynes, G French (Orrell), S McMain (Sheffield), J Dixon (West Hartlepool), D Baldwin (Sale), T Rodber (Northampton), A MacFarlane (Sale), N Ashurst (Orrell).

NEW ZEALAND: S Howarth (Auckland); J Wilson (Otago), E Clarke (Auckland), M Berry (Wellington), E Rush (North Harbour); M Ellis, S Forster (Otago); M Allen (Taranaki), N Hewitt (Hawke's Bay), G Purvis (Waikato), B Larsen (North Harbour), R Fromont, Z Brooke (Auckland, capt), J Mitchell (Waikato), L Barry (North Harbour).

Referee: J Fleming (Scotland).

All 19,100 tickets for England A's match against the All Blacks on Saturday have been sold, setting a new attendance record for Gateshead Stadium.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform