The task facing England at Twickenham this weekend came into sharp focus as New Zealand ran in 12 tries in a crushing 74-6 victory over the United States at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday.
With captain Richie McCaw rested for the game, Sam Cane was handed his first start of the year and the industrious openside certainly made the most of his opportunity. Aaron Cruden controlled the contest from fly-half and helped himself to a try and four conversions before making way for Dan Carter’s first All Blacks outing in almost a year blighted by injury.
Test centurion Carter later admitted to nerves ahead of his international return but there were no signs of it in a composed 30-minute cameo. However, coach Steve Hansen later suggested the match against England may be a little too soon to hand him the No 10 shirt again.
One player surely guaranteed to face England is the winger Julian Savea, who extended his incredible try-scoring record with one in each half. The 24-year-old now has 29 tries in 30 Tests and will no doubt be relishing a return to Twickenham and a rematch with a team he has tormented of late to the tune of eight tries.
Full-back Israel Dagg was at his game-breaking best and a key figure in several tries, with his elusive running providing much of the All Blacks’ attacking impetus and plenty of food for thought for the England coach, Stuart Lancaster.
The Eagles did their best to delay the inevitable with a physical opening to match the fireworks that preceded kick-off and they were rewarded for their efforts with two penalties from fly-half Adam Siddall.
But that was as good as it got for Mike Tolkin’s gutsy but limited side, with the All Blacks crossing for seven first-half tries. The hooker Nathan Harris got them on their way after just two minutes but was soon sidelined with an ankle injury. He was followed over the whitewash by Cory Jane, yet another injury victim with a hamstring tear set to rule him out for at least two weeks. Lock Patrick Tuipulotu then crossed before Williams’s two scores that were separated by another for winger Charles Piutau.
Savea’s first contribution, having replaced Jane, was to receive an outrageous one-handed offload from captain for the day Kieran Read before crossing for an easy score.
The intensity dropped a little after the break but the All Blacks’ onslaught continued with prop Joe Moody, Cruden, Dagg, Cane and Savea heaping woe on the Eagles.