Authors: Rio Sports
Eddie Jones has challenged England to complete a clean sweep against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa next November after a date was finally set for a first match against the All Blacks in four years.
Having failed in March to shoehorn a match with the All Blacks into this autumn’s schedule, the Rugby Football Union onWednesday announced England’s 2018 fixture list, which includes the visit of New Zealand on 10 November, with Australia, South Africa and Japan also due at Twickenham.
England have not played New Zealand since a defeat in November 2014 capped a run of five losses to the All Blacks within 12 months. They last beat the world champions when Manu Tuilagi inspired a 38-21 victory in 2012. But after a run of 19 wins from 20 matches under Jones, and with 15 England players taking part in the British & Irish Lions’ series draw in New Zealand over the summer, next November’s match is an eagerly-anticipated showdown.
“We want to win that series 4-0 and we will need to play extremely well to beat four very good teams,” said Jones. “Over the next year we need to continue to develop a bulletproof side, that can find ways to win in matches, and we will have to work hard and be smart in what we do to bridge the gap between us and the All Blacks.”
England’s 2016 autumn campaign, against Argentina, Samoa and Australia, begins on 11 November and this year it was revealed the RFU had attempted to hijack the Barbarians’ match against New Zealand at Twickenham on 4 November. The All Blacks decided to honour their fixture with the invitational side despite what is believed to be a lucrative offer from the RFU, meaning next year’s meeting will be the last between the world’s top-ranked two teams before the 2019 World Cup.
“Our ambition is to be the No1 team in the world going into the 2019 World Cup in Japan,” added Jones. “The series will give us a really good indicator of where we are as a squad, a year out.”
Meanwhile, England’s Anthony Watson has recovered from the left arm injury he suffered against Saracens last Saturday and is set to feature for Bath against Northampton on Friday. Jones will be a keen observer with the openside flanker Sam Underhill, who won his first England cap in June, making his first start for Bath.
“[Since the Lions] Anthony’s taken his game to a whole new level, on the field and off the field,” said the Bath director of rugby, Todd Blackadder. “The gas he has- he’s got a great kicking game and with a little bit of space he’s unstoppable.”
Northampton have confirmed that the South African back-row Heinrich Brussow will join the club in January. Brussow, 31, won his last Springboks cap in 2015, has been signed as a replacement for Louis Picamoles, who left Northampton for Montpellier in the summer for a record transfer fee, understood to be £1.3m.
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