ALL BLACKS v ENGLAND
This is an extremely hard game to call. England have a few stars missing from the World Cup winning side but still a team full of experience, size and skill. New Zealand have a pretty new side with only eight starting from the team that lost to Australia in the RWC semi. The forward pack is completely rearranged with 5 changes. Gibbes makes his debut at blindside when just last week it seemed he was converted to lock, and Robinson, Hayman and Rush are back from the wilderness. Gibbes seems to be there as a lineout option to combat the tall English pack but the ABs will really miss Jerry Collins go forward and brutal defence. How this pack will go against the hardened English pack is anyones guess put they all played their way in with storming displays in the trial which was closer to a test than Super 12 rugby. A lot will depend on McCaw having a blinder as usual and how well Rush can compete with the giant Dallaglio.
The backs are unchanged from the semi apart from Carter and Umaga in the midfield. New coach Henry has resisted the call to start Mehrtens who has been almost unstoppable in his last two weeks and keeps his faith in King Carlos who as usual has been brilliant and terrible from week to week in the Super 12.
If he doesn't succeed then it could be new boy Nick Evans big chance. He has the pace and skills to worry the English put is untested at this level. Sam Tuitupou could also cause some headaches with his extremely aggressive approach but the English have a very experienced midfield to combat this. Mike Catt has been brilliant coming off the bench for England in the last year and it will be interesting to see how he plays 80 minutes. Tindall of course is a huge man with great defence (his hit on Gregan in the final was brilliant) who likes the direct route but could be found out by the pace of the ABs back line.
To hard to call but maybe a tight English victory. Hopefully not
TAB ODDS: $1.40 New Zealand $2.85 England Points start: [-8.5 NZ $1.90 +8.5 ENG $1.90] [-10.5 NZ $2 +6.5 AUS $2]
CENTREBET ODDS: $1.36 New Zealand $3.10 England Points start: [-8.5 NZ $1.90 +8.5 ENG $1.90][-10.5 NZ $2.10 +6.5 AUS $2.10]
Date: Saturday June 12