Rugby Union: All Blacks confront easier task: Northern lights dim - Sport - The Independent

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.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week