England want to answer critics says Moody

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The Independent Online

Lewis Moody insists England's wounded players are "chomping at the bit" to prove their army of critics wrong in tomorrow's final autumn showdown against New Zealand.

England have faced a barrage of criticism after an insipid performance in last weekend's 16-9 victory over Argentina followed an 18-9 defeat to Australia.

Former England players Josh Lewsey and Will Greenwood have both called for Martin Johnson's assistant coaches to be sacked while Steve Borthwick's position as captain has come under renewed scrutiny.

But Johnson has urged his squad to harness that criticism and take it out against the All Blacks, who arrive at Twickenham as the newly-installed number one team in the world.

Moody said: "We would be the first people to say that our form last week wasn't good enough and we have to improve on that massively.

"We go into the game as underdogs but we will be chomping at the bit to try to put things right.

"The anxious energy is fizzing at the moment. When anyone is criticised you want to go back at them and show them why that's not the case.

"For us it is about being a team. It is about going out there and leaving no stone unturned on the pitch. You never question an England's team's effort.

"We have just got to go out there and put twice as much passion and pride on the line as we do normally.

"This is the last game of the autumn series and you always want to go out with a bang and we will be making sure we will be crossing every bridge to be there."

Despite Moody's determination, and that of the 21 others tasked with facing the All Blacks, there is no disguising how big a challenge they face.

Only once in seven Tests since England won the World Cup in 2003 have they come at all close to beating New Zealand, with a ferociously physical performance in 2005 that pushed the All Blacks to the brink.

Andy Robinson's England ultimately fell short four years ago as New Zealand clung on in the dying minutes with only 13 players on the field to secure a 23-19 victory.

During that run of seven consecutive All Black victories, Dan Carter has scored more points on his own than England have managed altogether.

"The All Blacks are still one of the teams to beat in Test match rugby. How many times have they lost in Britain and Ireland over the last 50 years? Not many," said Johnson.

"Any Test against the All Blacks is very special. It would be nice to have a great performance. That is what we strive to do.

"There is a level of frustration amongst us as a group that we haven't put together a level of consistency in the game.

"No-one likes getting criticised but you put your neck on the line when you go out and play and coach.

"It does get to you but hopefully the players can harness that.

"We can't affect what has happened over the last two weeks but this is a chance to play the All Blacks and we can do something about it."

Johnson has been impressed by the character of his England side in what he admits has been a "tough week" and they are gearing up for another full-frontal physical assault on the All Blacks.

Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley have been recalled to the pack while Johnson has opted for the direct presence of Ayoola Erinle instead of Shane Geraghty at inside centre.

As the sole playmaker, Jonny Wilkinson needs to be spot on with his kicking game because the All Blacks back three can rip any defence to shreds on the counter-attack.

England have picked a side to run hard and straight with the ball and to try and pressurise Carter into standing deeper in position, earning their defence precious extra time to react.

But that ferocity must be well channelled. Twelve months ago, England had four players sent to the sin-bin as they crashed to a record home defeat to the All Blacks.

And Carter, who needs only two points to overtake Andrew Mehrtens as the leading All Blacks points scorer, will lap up any chance to make England's indiscipline pay.

"We need to be competitive at the breakdown because if we let them dominate that area, we will come second," said Johnson.

"But as ever it is a balance. If you give penalties away that will be possession, territory and points. We need to be smart, accurate and physical.

"If you win by a point it goes on the list of times you beat the All Blacks, which is not a long list."