"History Makers?" - Predicting the England team to face the All Blacks at Eden Park - Page 2 of 3 - Ruck

“History Makers?” – Predicting the England team to face the All Blacks at Eden Park


10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins)

9. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)

Last Kick Drop Goal celebrations from Marcus Smith of England to win the match during the Guinness Six Nations Match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on March 9th 2024. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Now we move onto a real area of contention, as once again the England fly half spot comes into discussion. Marcus Smith did not have the best performance in the opening match against New Zealand, as the Harlequin left eight points on the pitch that proved to be decisive. Smith’s inaccuracy from the tee left England trailing at important points, and yet the squad rallied around the England 10 once the side departed at full-time in defeat.

Whilst it would certainly be a statement from Steve Borthwick to drop Marcus Smith from the starting XV, we don’t expect the England head coach to leave the halfback out of the side to take on the All Blacks from the get go. Whilst Fin Smith continues to wait in the wings, as the Northampton fly half only had a brief cameo in the match’s final stages, we expect to see the fly half amongst the replacements in the 22 shirt once again.

Alex Mitchell of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

The scrum half starter could well have been a different story, had Ben Spencer hit his top stride off the bench against the All Blacks. However, after Alex Mitchell had a solid effort in his starting run-out, Spencer fell below his high expectations as he came off the bench. Whilst Mitchell kept the All Blacks on their toes with some back of ruck snipes, and alternating directional distributions, Spencer’s one dimensional pass and box kick was easy to read from the New Zealanders, as the match hit the closing stages.


1. Fin Baxter (Harlequins)

2. Jamie George (Saracens)

3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)

Fin Baxter of Harlequins before the Gallahgher Premiership match between Saracens and Harlequins at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London on 25 March 2023 (Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK)

For a relatively unchanged starting side all things considered, we have opted to change up two thirds of the England front row to play New Zealand this Saturday. Beginning at loose-head, we would love to see Fin Baxter get his first start in an England jersey (after we correctly predicted his inclusion on the bench for debut in Dunedin, we may add).

Jamie George, Captain of England celebrates after winning during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

Baxter was excellent up-front against Ofa Tu’ungafasi, as he the young Harlequin replaced his mentor Joe Marler after just 20 minutes of play. Whilst Marler will be sorely missed by England fans in the second Test, his position is in safe hands with one of the Premiership’s top scrummagers irregardless of age. Accompanying Baxter upon his first senior England start is of course Jamie George, with the England captain set for one last hit-out for the 2023/24 season.

Dan Cole of England is interviewed during the England Captains Run ahead of the Guinness Six Nations at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on Friday 3rd February 2023 | Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK.

The opportunity to finish the campaign as Eden Park record breakers is one that George would savour, as he gets set to take charge from the two jersey. Rounding off our re-vamped England front row is the old stalwart of the squad, with Dan Cole set for a start in our opinion. The Leicester prop had been used as an alternating experienced figure alongside Joe Marler, with one of the two old friends starting, and the other amongst the replacements. Also, Will Stuart did not have the finest day at the office in the first Test, and we can see him take a seat on the bench.