The view from New Zealand: England have a nasty knack of getting under our skin

It's a great All Black era, but if the home team can drag us down to their level, you never know, writes Winston Aldworth in Auckland

Auckland

Suddenly, being the best international team between World Cups – the faint praise that hung heavily over the All Blacks for two decades – seems pretty cool.

Victory over England today will put the seal on a fine All Black season, but it won't confirm this side as The Greatest Rugby Team Ever. Well, not for those of us down here in New Zealand, at least.

Praise from British commentators over recent weeks about the All Blacks' brilliance at playing footy has been as flattering as the campaign against Andrew Hore has been predictable. But numbers don't lie, and if they were TGRTE, Steve Hansen's men would not have the word "draw" already marked in their 2012 results ledger. Shared honours six weeks ago in Brisbane halted the All Blacks' winning run at 16, one short of the record for top-flight teams. Still, there's no shame in a 20-match undefeated stretch – particularly one that takes in a World Cup final – and there is little doubt that we are in the midst of a great All Black era.

It has been a cracking season. Shelving fears of a post-World Cup hangover, the All Blacks have scored 47 tries and conceded just 14, with the combined scoreboards from 13 matches reading 445 points to 155. With the exception of outgunned Scotland, all the 2012 results have come against decent opposition able to present at least a physical, if not a tactical challenge.

So, are they the best All Black side of all time? Nah – we've had better teams than this sent home early from World Cups.

There are areas that, while not full-blown weaknesses, are certainly worth probing. The generally excellent Aaron Smith has wobbled against bruising opponents able to bring chaos to the fringes of rucks and mauls – the kind of chaos that England might bring to Twickenham.

There's even a little uncertainty in an area that is traditionally a great All Black strength, the loose forwards. Liam Messam's form demands inclusion at No 6, while many believe Victor Vito's frame suggests he is the long-term prospect for that crucial jersey.

Best omen of all for England, a dose of food poisoning has gone through the touring squad.

And England, of all teams, have the happy knack of getting under All Black skin or, as we unkindly put it, dragging the All Blacks down to their level.

But don't think Hore's trip to the judiciary will have been a distraction. While his dangerous and dirty whack to Wales lock Bradley Davies filled the newspaper column inches and gave the blogeratti something to whine about other than the haka, it also gave coach Hansen the opportunity to tell his men, with a straight face no less, that "it's us against the world".

Hore is something of a throwback. He once shot a protected seal, for goodness sake – not in self-defence, but for fun. His progression from shooting seals to clubbing Wales has been seamless. Within the team, he is Richie McCaw's bagman, dispensing internal justice as the skipper deems necessary. While his team-mates tint their hair and compare sneaker colours, Hore maintains the sort of visage that glares out from blokes at the shoulder of Colin Meads in dusty old black-and-white team photos. Those black-and-white men would affirm Hore's right to clear out an opponent blocking his run to a ruck (as would anyone from the England pack of 2003). But to do the clearing out with a high shot was dumb.

The Hore cause has found some sympathy down here. A primetime news show added, er, context to the discussion by playing a video nasty of Davies' tip-tackle on Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris.

England's best chance, ironically, involves mixing the sort of interference in which Davies was engaging and a touch of the uncomprising edge Hore displayed. Get the balance right and they could ruin the season for the All Blacks and end the debate about this wonderful team's place in history.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
filmCritic Kaleem Aftab picks his favourites for Halloween
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Life and Style
Google's doodle celebrating Halloween 2014
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
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

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes