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New Zealand 16-15 England: first rugby union Test – as it happened
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New Zealand 16-15 England: first rugby union Test – as it happened

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Scott Robertson had booted the door down, strutted in and announced his arrival by making some big calls. Beauden Barrett is benched in favour of Stephen Perofota at fullback, while his brother Scott – a man who is never more than few seconds from flirting with a card – is named captain. Richie Mo’unga is out, which ushers in a full run at 10 for the mercurial Damian McKenzie.

Steve Borthwick has decided that small evolutions is the way of progress. His England team is largely the same as that which grew in strength in March, but there is a start for Harlequins’ impressive Chandler Cunningham-South at blindside. Marcus Smith replaces the injured George Ford at stand-off. Northampton youngster Ollie Sleightholme will make an appearance from the bench where he has the returning Tom Curry for company.

New Zealand: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Tele’a, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Scott Barrett (c), 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot

Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Beauden Barrett

England: 15 George Furbank, 14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chandler Cunningham-South, 5 George Martin, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jamie George-captain, 1 Joe Marler

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Fin Baxter, 18 Dan Coles, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Tom Curry, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Ollie Sleightholme

Welcome to Dunedin where New Zealand and England kick off their two-Test series; a brace of matches that will answer some questions for both sides. Among them are: is England’s improvement since the Calcutta Cup loss built on solid foundations? Are the All Blacks under their new coach able to shake off the feeling of underachievement that haunted the previous regime? And will Scott Robertson still do that stupid sodding breakdancing if they win, even at international level?

You can prove anything with facts, they say. And it’s a fact that since Martin Johnson led that heroic rearguard victory in 2003 England haven’t won in Aotearoa, which emphasises the presenting task for Steve Borthwick’s charges today. Even with a transitioning NZ squad to face, a victory here is remains rare as a 2024 “red wall” Conservative.

It’s also a fact – albeit a hard one to believe – that England haven’t come ashore in New Zealand since 2014, this being their first trip here for a decade. This is new territory for all of the visiting squad, while no one in the home 23 have faced today’s opponents on such familiar soil either.

Much uncertainty to ponder as we wait for kick off.

Source: theguardian.com