Brian Smith: Dead rubber? Try telling Kyle Eastmond and the others eager to stake a claim for a World Cup place

Coach's View

Two down with one to play: if you look at the numbers in isolation, nothing adds up for England. But for my money, Saturday’s final Test in Hamilton has plenty riding on it.

Stuart Lancaster’s team may not be able to win this series with the All Blacks, or even square it, but it is absolutely within their power to strike a really solid blow ahead of next year’s World Cup – which, if we’re being honest, is providing the backdrop to the story.

The current situation takes me back to the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 2009. The tourists went into the last Test in Johannesburg off the back of two narrow defeats and on the face of it, there was nothing for them to pursue. Yet when you scratched beneath the surface, you realised that even a beaten team could come out ahead. Sure enough, an injury-riddled Lions side won that game at Ellis Park, making a big statement about themselves and their ambitions for the future in the process. I think England are in exactly the same place this weekend.

They have some fitness issues, hence the absence of Owen Farrell and Danny Care at half-back, and some concerns over fatigue: certainly, I can understand the decision to stick a battle-weary Joe Launchbury on the bench and bring Courtney Lawes back into the second row. Yet the changes should work in their favour in the long run – particularly those in midfield, where fresh combinations will aid the World Cup selection process, as well as bring fresh energy to the side.

I’m pleased to see Manu Tuilagi back at centre, where he belongs. When he was moved to the right wing for last weekend’s game, I questioned the logic of the timing. Well, I’m happy to stand by that opinion. To my mind, you play wings on the wing and centres in the centre. And Manu isn’t really an international wing of any description, let alone an English version of Julian Savea.

By restoring Tuilagi to his most effective position, ahead of Luther Burrell, the England coaches now have a genuine contest there. The same goes for the inside centre role, where Kyle Eastmond has a precious opportunity to strengthen his place in the Test squad. If he performs as well as he did in the first Test at Eden Park, it will be good news on two fronts: firstly, he will give the team a point of difference in midfield with his unusual skill set; and secondly, he will keep Billy Twelvetrees honest. Twelvetrees has all the right equipment as a No 12, but some meaningful competition never did anyone harm.

One other comment on the back division: I’d like to see someone come through as an alternative to Mike Brown at full-back. At this stage, that someone looks like being Anthony Watson, with whom I worked at London Irish until he moved to Bath.

Watson is super-quick – he showed us against the Crusaders on Tuesday – and the more he features at elite level, the more pressure he’ll put on Brown, most people’s favourite full-back of the season. It’s a stretch to imagine his present purple patch will last for ever. He needs a challenger, and Watson fits the bill.

Watching last week’s game, it struck me that despite England’s excellent start, the tide was turning in the All Blacks’ favour in the 15 minutes before the break. There were a couple of long passages of play that seemed to suck the life out of the tourists’ tight five and as a result, they found it hard to cope when the New Zealanders came steaming out for the second half. For this reason, I’m pleased to see Lawes and Dylan Hartley back in the mix for this one.

It’s always a risk to bet against the All Blacks on home soil, but on balance I take England to win, primarily because with the series lost, they can play without pressure against a team who might just drop off a little in the aftermath of their success. Belief is everything, and in order to believe, you have to know that something is possible. England flew to New Zealand secure in the knowledge that their ambitions were realistic. The important thing now is hold on to that certainty and make it count.

Brian Smith is a former England attack coach and current director of rugby at London Irish. His fee for this article will be donated to the club’s academy

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
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

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home