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'We got smacked on the nose'

SPOTLIGHT: The All Blacks must “front up” to the firepower of England’s forwards to avoid repeating their shocking 2019 defeat.

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This is the view of Ardie Savea, ahead of the two-Test home series.

New Zealand will play their first game of the year when they host England on July 6 in Dunedin, before the teams meet again the following Saturday at Auckland’s Eden Park.

The All Blacks haven’t beaten the touring visitors since 2018.

England forced them into a 25-all draw when the sides met in 2022 at Twickenham, three years after New Zealand were stunned 19-7 in the semifinals of the 2019 World Cup, when Savea scored the All Blacks’ only try against the English.

“We understand what they bring and if we don’t match up or front up, it’s going to be a long day,” the loose forward told reporters.

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“That’s what happened in 2019. We got smacked on the nose and couldn’t recover.”

The All Blacks haven’t played since losing the World Cup Final 11-12 to South Africa in October, while England are fresh from thrashing Japan 52-17 in Tokyo last weekend.

The New Zealand squad gathered near Wellington to begin preparations under new coach Scott Robertson.

Savea, voted world player of 2023, has had one game for the Hurricanes team since his playing sabbatical in Japan finished in May.

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He is relishing getting stuck into All Blacks training to prepare for England.

TJ Perenarawith quote

“The last time we played them we drew, so we have got a bit of history,” he said.

“They have just played Japan and are going really well. We need to focus on ourselves and make sure we nail it.”

Savea is wary of England play-maker Marcus Smith, who ran in one of their eight tries with a slick move from a set-play in Tokyo.

“They are physical, they are skilful and have Marcus Smith running their game,” said Savea.

The All Blacks defence will need to pay England’s flyhalf special attention, Savea said.

“His unpredictability is a threat, he’s growing into himself in the way he controls the game.”

Like Savea, New Zealand’s star back Beauden Barrett has spent the year so far playing club rugby in Japan. He is set to face England alongside his two brothers.

Scott Barrett has been named All Blacks captain with centre Jordie Barrett as his vice-captain.

The All Blacks have 10 days to prepare to face England and Beauden Barrett expects a simple game plan for Robertson’s first game.

“The coaches have been organised and their information presented has been layered,” he said.

“We wouldn’t be taking in a game plan that is too extensive so we’ll keep it simple, but whatever we do, we’ll be super clear come Friday and Saturday next week.

“We have got a lot of work to do between now and then, but we’re confident we will get to the right place.”

All Blacks squad 2024

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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