Former All Black eigthman Zinzan Brooke believes the Test against England will be a chance for New Zealand’s fringe players to shine.
Writing in his column on the BBC website Brooke rejected the suggestion that Graham Henry’s decision to rest key players like Dan Carter and Jerry Collins was because he underestimated England.
He praised the All Blacks selectors confidence in their fringe players in a match of this magnitude and added that even with a less than full strength side he expected New Zealand to triumph.
He wrote that their two-Test series against France would be their priority and striking a blow ahead of the World Cup would give them the psychological edge over a team they consider their main competition for the trophy.
“I think the real focus for the All Blacks is on the two France Tests, because it would nice to give the French a lot of concerns in their preparations for the World Cup,
” he wrote.
“Having said that, New Zealand could win both games in France and the French could still turn around and win a one-off game at the World Cup.
“I think there is a bit of nervousness about England heading into these Tests. They are lacking that confidence and experience which was the hallmark of the 2003 side, when Martin Johnson had five or six generals to call on.”
He added that Graham Henry would not want to start the tour with a loss before slamming the popular perception that New Zealand were World Cup chokers.
“Some people say it’s better to lose the odd game, because we have a history of peaking between World Cups and never getting it right when it matters.
I think that’s a load of rubbish,” he asserted. “You have to win two or three big games to win a World Cup and New Zealand just haven’t been good enough in the last two tournaments.
He lamented the loss of Tana Umaga to injury in their 2003 World Cup semi-final loss to Australia and cited this as a reason the All Black selectors have made the right decision to select the side they have.
“The same thing could happen to Richie McCaw or Dan Carter next year, which is why Graham Henry is trying other players now.”