Sat, Nov 19, 2005 - Page 18 News List

All Blacks relish challenge of facing British in England

AP , LONDON

New Zealand's rugby team already dominates the Southern Hemisphere. Today, it continues its bid for a sweep of the British Isles when it plays England at Twickenham.

Chasing a Grand Slam of victories over Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland for the first time since 1978, the Tri-Nations champion named its strongest team yet to meet the World Cup holder.

"The All Blacks love coming to Twickenham and putting it over a strong England team so it is a big occasion for us. This would top off a great season," New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter said.

"It's the biggest test on tour so far so the boys are pumped up. We realize it isn't going to be easy because the England team played pretty well beating Australia (26-16) last week."

The All Blacks have crushed Six Nations champ Wales 41-3 and Ireland 45-7, and face a Scotland side still gelling under new manager Frank Hadden on Nov. 26.

Also on Saturday, Australia bids to end its seven-match losing streak when it plays Ireland at Lansdowne Road, and South Africa faces Wales at Millennium Stadium. If Australia loses, it will record its worst sequence of results since losing 11 in a row from 1936-1947.

In other internationals, it's France vs. Tonga, Italy vs. Argentina, Portugal vs. Fiji for the first time, and Romania vs. Canada. Scotland plays Samoa tomorrow.

Competition for a place in the New Zealand starting lineup is so strong that Rico Gear, who scored a hat trick against Wales, couldn't make the squad. Sitiveni Sivivatu was named instead on the wings with Doug Howlett.

England's pack humiliated Australia last Saturday, but coach Andy Robinson knows they'll have to be on top form to stop New Zealand, particularly in the scrum.

"It's important we keep the scrum square," Robinson said. "We respect the New Zealand scrum which has had a tremendous impact since [coach] Graham Henry has been involved. We have to stand toe to toe with that."

England hooker Steve Thompson said team morale was high.

"They're beatable," Thompson said. "South Africa can beat them in the Tri-Nations, so we can have a go at them and get the win as well. We really want to test ourselves, and there's no better test than playing the number one team in the world."

After their scrum was demolished by England, the Wallabies brought in props David Fitter to make his debut and Greg Holmes for his first test start, in place of Al Baxter and the injured Matt Dunning.

Utility back Matt Giteau's knee fracture also opened a place on the bench for Wendell Sailor.

Ireland center Gordon D'Arcy said Australia would try different tactics than New Zealand.

"It's probably not fair to compare Australia's backs with New Zealand's," D'Arcy said. "The Wallabies have players who ghost around you while New Zealand have target men and guys who can go through you."

New Zealanders reacted with surprise and delight on Friday to the news their small, rugby-mad nation was chosen to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The decision was handed down by the International Rugby Board about 5am local time, although the country's 24-hour rugby channel carried the announcement live from Dublin.

The state-owned broadcaster Radio New Zealand devoted most of its morning newscast to the decision, interviewing Prime Minister Helen Clark aboard the plane carrying her from Dublin, where she pushed New Zealand's bid, to the APEC world leaders summit in South Korea.

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