All Blacks v England: Drama aplenty the last time they met

Eighteen months is a long time in rugby. Back in November of 2022, Ian Foster’s All Blacks were gearing up to face Eddie Jones’ England at Twickenham.

It was the last stop on what was shaping up to be a morale boosting return to form after an horrific start to the season, with the All Blacks losing a series to Ireland and then going down to Argentina at home as well.

Foster’s job had been on the line and he was spared the axe thanks to a remarkable performance against the Springboks at Ellis Park, but the feeling of unease was palpable as the team headed away on their end-of-year tour.

The World Cup was less than a year away. Things looked bleak, selections were confusing, and the All Blacks needed some good results to remind everyone at home that they were on course to make a run in France.

In what was probably the best month of Foster’s time in charge of the All Blacks, they got them. Japan was dealt to by a C-team, Wales were slaughtered in Cardiff and a very confident Scottish side were beaten in Edinburgh. The manner of the 31-23 win at Murrayfield was the most impressive – the All Blacks had fought back from a 23-14 deficit and a yellow card to close out a comfortable win, due to a highly effective shift by the reserves.

All Blacks player Shannon Frizell, Aaron Smith and head coach Ian Foster and Assistant coach Scott McLeod during the New Zealand All Blacks v Australia Wallabies. Bledisloe Cup and 2022 Rugby Championship match at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday 24 September 2022.
© Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga /

Meanwhile, Jones’ England side were having a typically dramatic year. Much like when they met in 2018, his job was on the line too after a run of mediocre performances. The showdown at Twickenham stood as a watershed moment for both coaches.

Another clinical performance by the All Blacks and Foster could spend the summer saying everything was on track, while an upset by Jones would definitely be enough to silence his growing army of critics.

There were certainly plenty of them in the stands as Twickenham swelled to its capacity of 82,000 when the teams walked on its hallowed turf, but the cacophony of noise that greeted the haka was ample evidence that the English team itself was still enjoying its usual share of boisterous support.

Unfortunately for most in the crowd, though, that’s all they had to shout about for a while. Dalton Papali’i silenced them when he picked off a pass by Jack van Poortvleit after four minutes, striding untouched across half the length of the field.

Codie Taylor crashed over from a lineout drive, before Rieko Ioane provided the All Black highlight of the match when a cross kick and smart offload saw him sprint 80 metres to score in the corner.

At that stage, it was 25-6 and things were going perfectly for Foster and the All Blacks. Despite Papali’i and Ioane’s long range efforts, the game wasn’t going down as a classic by any means, with plenty of kicking and whistle.

But it turns out 10 minutes can be a pretty long time in rugby too. It took exactly that amount of time for England to figure out how to play and the All Blacks to seemingly forget, as the ball was aimlessly booted down the throats of the English back three.

Freddie Steward, who up until then had mostly been watching proceedings from the back, found space, breaks in the All Black defence, and the try line. Will Stuart, who had come on as a replacement front rower, crashed over twice – only the second time an English player had scored a double against the All Blacks in the professional era.

Marcus Smith crucially missed the conversion of Stuart’s first try, meaning the game finished as a 25-all draw after 70 minutes of one-way traffic and 10 of absolute madness from the home side. Had Smith nailed that kick, the reaction from back home would have been worse – but not by much.

New Zealand rugby fans aren’t fools and knew full well this was a loss dressed up as a draw. It was the second end-of-year tour in a row that hadn’t ended in victory, which meant a long few months of conjecture about the team’s temperament.

England head coach Eddie Jones.

On the other hand, Jones thought he’d probably just saved his job – again. He was right, but it would all come undone in the weeks that followed anyway in the most English rugby culture way possible.

The outspoken Australian dared suggest that the game in England would benefit from a shakeup of the upper class public school pathway that it had relied upon since the game’s birth, which proved to be more offensive than any sort of poor run of results. Jones was sacked, headed home and was immediately offered a job coaching the Wallabies.

As they say, the rest is history. The All Blacks returned to Twickenham the following August and were handed their worst ever loss, a 35-7 hammering by the Springboks before embarking on a fascinating World Cup campaign that saw them come within a missed kick of winning. Foster stepped down rather than seek reappointment, with Sam Cane’s captaincy part of the collateral damage.

Jones’ tenure at the Wallabies was about the biggest disaster imaginable, he’s now at his third test side in as many seasons in Japan. Steve Borthwick took over the English head coaching job, had a run of dispiriting results himself before finally pointing the team in the right direction during the World Cup.

All the try scorers from the last meeting bar Steward are in the starting line-ups for Saturday night. The last three results between the two sides have been the draw, the 19-7 English World Cup semifinal win in 2019 and an extremely fortuitous 16-15 win by the All Blacks in 2018.

One thing they’ve all had in common is drama and intrigue, which looks set to repeat itself on Saturday night in Dunedin.

All Blacks v England

Kick-off: 7.05pm, Saturday 6 July

Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Live blog coverage on RNZ Sport

All Blacks: 1, Ethan de Groot 2. Codie Taylor 3. Tyrel Lomax 4. Scott Barrett (captain) 5, Patrick Tuipulotu, 6. Samipeni Finau 7. Dalton Papali’i 8. Ardie Savea (vice captain) 9. TJ Perenara 10. Damian McKenzie 11. Mark Tele’a 12. Jordie Barrett 13. Rieko Ioane 14. Sevu Reece 15. Stephen Perofeta

Bench: 16. Asafo Aumua 17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi 18. Fletcher Newell 19. Tupou Vaa’i 20. Luke Jacobson 21. Finlay Christie 22. Anton Lienert-Brown 23. Beauden Barrett

England: 15. George Furbank, 14. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13. Henry Slade (vice-captain), 12. Ollie Lawrence, 11. Tommy Freeman, 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Alex Mitchell 8. Ben Earl (vice-captain), 7. Sam Underhill, 6. Chandler Cunningham-South, 5. George Martin, 4. Maro Itoje (vice-captain), 3. Will Stuart, 2. Jamie George (captain), 1. Joe Marler (vice-captain)

Bench: 16. Theo Dan, 17. Fin Baxter, 18. Dan Cole, 19. Alex Coles, 20. Tom Curry, 21. Ben Spencer, 22. Fin Smith, 23. Ollie Sleightholme

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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