Sir Clive Woodward makes bold prediction for England vs All Blacks clash - Ruck

Sir Clive Woodward makes bold prediction for England vs All Blacks clash

England head coach Sir Clive Woodward has confidently predicted the outcome of England’s upcoming clash with the All Blacks.

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Despite facing criticism for a kick-heavy strategy during last year’s World Cup, England demonstrated a more positive approach in their Six Nations victory over Ireland. This enhanced attacking intent persisted in their close defeat to France and their recent win against Japan at the start of their summer tour.

“If England were to win in New Zealand on Saturday morning, it would be a massive scalp by anyone’s reckoning,” began Woodward.

He continued: “This summer’s two-Test series is the first time England have toured New Zealand in a decade. There is no stiffer challenge in rugby than what Borthwick’s side are about to face.

“But I also firmly believe they can rise to the challenge and seal a truly famous success in Dunedin. The victory England secured in Wellington in 2003 was my ultimate match as coach. It’s the No 1 game I would replay if I could – not the World Cup final win later that year – because of how good the performance was, the calibre of the opposition, where it came, the conditions, and the adversity we faced before and during the game.

Ollie Lawrence of England during the Guinness Six Nations Match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on March 9th 2024. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“For me, the centre pairing of Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade holds the key to the team’s chances of success. England need to nail their midfield combination.”

Woodward continued: “Borthwick and his players have the potential to get it off to a great start. I get the sense Borthwick is now really realising as head coach he must get out of his comfort zone by setting England up to play a fast, attacking game. That is exactly where any national coach should strive to be.

“I think he is a pragmatic coach but one who has realised England won’t win at Test level by adopting a one-dimensional strategy. For that, he deserves great credit.

“With the roof closed in Dunedin for the first Test, conditions will be good which means England have a great opportunity to continue their attacking development.”


Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia), replaced by Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)

Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand), replaced by Owen Farrell (England)

Owens praised Farrell as a player on numerous occasions.

On one occasion he wrote: “I can only speak from my own experience of refereeing him and, when I did, he was an excellent captain to deal with.

“I have a huge amount of respect for him as a player and a person. He always knew where the line was with me.

“I would say to him that he could always come and talk to me as long as it was at the right time and in the right tone and he always did that.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”