Sunday, July 21, 2024

Steve Borthwick looking forward to testing New Zealand at Eden Park

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England boss Steve Borthwick has stepped up his efforts to unsettle New Zealand ahead of Saturday’s second Test by insisting they will be burdened by expectation at their Eden Park fortress.

Borthwick has made just one change following the narrow 16-15 defeat in Dunedin by naming Fin Baxter at loosehead prop in place of Joe Marler, who has been ruled out by a foot injury.

And the head coach’s confidence in his team is reflected in his willingness to resume the mind games he started after England fell agonisingly shot in the first of two Tests against the All Blacks.

New Zealand have not lost at Eden Park since France triumphed 23-20 in 1994, a 30-year period that spans 48 matches. It is one of the game’s great unbeaten runs, but Borthwick believes that success comes with baggage.

“Eden Park is a stadium packed with history and with memories of great rugby encounters,” Borthwick said.

“We are delighted to be playing there this Saturday in what I anticipate will be another excellent Test encounter.

“New Zealand has a formidable record at this venue, but with that comes the pressure of expectation.

“It will be interesting to see how New Zealand manages that expectation in front of a full house.”

England head coach Steve Borthwick says the pressure is on New Zealand in Auckland (Mike Egerton/PA)

In a show of faith in the players who let a 15-10 lead slip from their fingertips in the first-half at Forsyth Barr Stadium, England have made just one enforced change following Marler’s early exit.

Baxter replaced his Harlequins team-mate to win his international debut and the 22-year-old rookie made telling contributions, although he was part of an England scrum that was put under pressure by the All Blacks.

He has now been awarded his full Test debut with Bevan Rodd named amongst the replacements as loosehead cover.

Rodd’s selection having started the tour opener against Japan and then been omitted from the 23 altogether in Dunedin is the only adjustment to the bench, the Sale Shark providing loosehead cover.

Marcus Smith continues at fly-half for England
Marcus Smith continues at fly-half for England (Mike Egerton/PA)

Borthwick has opted against naming Dan Cole in the front row as a counter to Baxter’s inexperience, but the Leicester tighthead is still poised to become England’s second most capped player.

The 37-year-old is set to win his 115th cap, surpassing Jason Leonard’s 114 appearances but trailing Ben Youngs’ 127.

“I’d like to pay special tribute to Dan Cole. He has shown nothing but dedication and determination throughout his career and reaching this milestone is a remarkable feat,” Borthwick said.

“He’s a superb rugby player and a wonderful role model. We all look forward to sharing a memorable day with him on Saturday.”

Marcus Smith continues at fly-half with the aim of answering the concerns raised in the first Test over his ability to pull the strings for England.

Smith was a threat to New Zealand in attack and his running skills and vision were instrumental in Immanuel Feyi-Waboso’s try that registered a 15-10 lead, but he also missed eight points off the kicking tee, including two routine penalties.

England: G Furbank (Northampton Saints); I Feyi-Waboso (Exeter Chiefs), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), O Lawrence (Bath Rugby), T Freeman (Northampton Saints); M Smith (Harlequins), A Mitchell (Northampton Saints); F Baxter (Harlequins), J George (Saracens, capt), W Stuart (Bath Rugby), M Itoje (Saracens), G Martin (Leicester Tigers), C Cunningham-South (Harlequins), S Underhill (Bath Rugby), B Earl (Saracens).

Replacements: T Dan (Saracens), B Rodd (Sale Sharks), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), A Coles (Northampton Saints), T Curry (Sale Sharks), B Spencer (Bath Rugby), F Smith (Northampton Saints), O Sleightholme (Northampton Saints).

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