The All Blacks’ aura of invincibility is gone for England prop Joe Marler, who said his team’s fighting loss in Auckland last week had raised their belief that they could match the world champions.
England, the only team to beat top-ranked New Zealand in the past two seasons, lost the series-opener 20-15 last weekend against a rusty All Blacks side many had thought would thrash the tourists at their home Eden Park fortress.
England will have their pick of many of the first-choice players that missed the Auckland match due to the nation’s club final earlier this month and should field a stronger side on paper for the second Test in Dunedin.
“We went into the first Test last Saturday having spent the build-up trying to get rid of this All Black myth or aura of how they are invincible,” the Harlequins front-rower Marler told reporters. “The All Blacks have always been very good at making people aware that they are good at the basics and so we went out to at least match them there. Saturday helped us go even further in believing we can go toe-to-toe with these guys. I used to have this thing about their invincibility in my head. I always looked on the All Blacks as the best team in the world, so you automatically assume that they have the best players from one to 15. That is how I used to think of it as a player, but when you break it down, they are 15 blokes on a field trying to do the same as we are.”
Already under-strength, England suffered a late blow when scrumhalf Danny Care was ruled out shortly before the first Test, but has been passed fit for Dunedin and may replace Ben Youngs in the starting side.
“Danny is that little ball of energy that lifts the game when it slows down a bit,” Marler said. “He does a quick tap, sparks the boys and gets the forwards around the corner quickly. He brings great tempo to the game and it is really pleasing to see him do what he does week-in, week-out for the Quins, for England now. That is the way we want to play.”