Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw believes England will pose the biggest threat to New Zealand in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup.
England have improved a great deal since Eddie Jones was appointed head coach in the wake of the 2015 World Cup. The side has won 22 of its 23 Tests, and claimed two Six Nations titles, in the space of two seasons.
The All Blacks finished the 2017 season at the top of the World Rugby rankings. It will be interesting to see how they fare against England, the No 2-ranked team, at Twickenham next November.
McCaw, who led the All Blacks to two World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015, believes England will pose the greatest threat to New Zealand’s expected dominance in 2018, and at the 2019 World Cup.
‘There is no doubt Eddie has instilled some confidence in what they are doing and they are playing rugby that is pretty smart,’ McCaw told the Daily Telegraph. ‘I suspect that the English are probably at that point where they do actually think they are on the right track.’
McCaw believes the current All Blacks and England teams are in a different class to the likes of Australia, South Africa, and other tier-one nations. He highlighted the recent battle between the All Blacks and Wales, as well as the Test between England and Australia this past November, as matches which showcased the sides’ shared traits.
‘It was a real arm wrestle [in Cardiff] and the All Blacks didn’t have a lot of ball but they got one or two opportunities in the first half and bang, they made it count,’ McCaw said. ‘In these top-level games, there is not a lot between the top teams. It is about opportunities that come and being able to nail them.
‘Teams compete with [England] for a while – if you look at the Aussies – and then when the opportunity came to bang the nail, it was 30 points to six and you wonder, “How did that happen?”‘
The Springboks will face England in a three-Test series in June, and the All Blacks twice in the subsequent Rugby Championship.
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