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Page last updated at 22:33 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 23:33 UK

Zinzan Brooke column

Zinzan Brooke
By Zinzan Brooke
All Blacks legend

As a New Zealander I am a little bit concerned about Saturday's first Test against England, to be honest.

We were not that convincing in the game against Ireland. Maybe it was because it was their first game in a while and they were struggling to gel.

It was an OK performance, but if the Irish had been disciplined it could have swung either way and the 10-point margin was a little bit flattering to the All Blacks.

I predict the All Blacks will only win by between five and eight points

Saturday's result all depends on how much England want it. There is a new management regime so the players have a point to prove.

There are a few experienced campaigners in there, like Steve Borthwick, Andrew Sheridan, Matt Stevens and Mike Tindall, but it is a young team.

However, anything can happen and these guys will want to prove a point.

England have got rid of all the deadwood and there is a real chance for guys like Tom Rees, who is a mighty fine player, to cement his place.

I am sure he is looking forward to the whole occasion but he will have his work cut out.

Wasps back rowers Tom Rees (left) and James Haskell
Wasps flankers Rees (left) and Haskell have big roles to play for England
Everyone keeps branding him as one of the best number sevens in the world and if you want to be the best you have got to pit yourself against the best - players like All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

How it goes all depends on what sort of platform the front five provide for the likes of Rees and James Haskell.

I was impressed by their combination in Wasps' Guinness Premiership final win over Leicester.

I thought both of them were right on top of their game, but that was club level and this is international level - they need to step up.

Luke Narraway is a good player and I think England did the right thing bringing him in at number eight when Nick Easter was ruled out with injury.

England could maybe have gone with Joe Worsley at blind-side and moved Haskell to eight, but you need to try new things.

England have picked a pretty good tight five, with Sheridan, Lee Mears and Stevens forming the front row and captain Borthwick and Tom Palmer in the second row.

Steve Borthwick soars to claim a line-out in the Six Nations
Borthwick's ability to bring his line-out expertise to bear will be important

Borthwick may be a little bit lightweight but he is great at snaffling opposition line-out ball - he needs a big game against Ali Williams and Brad Thorn - and I've got no doubt Palmer will step up to the plate.

When I was playing number 8 I was lucky I had a tight five of Sean Fitzpatrick, Craig Dowd, Olo Brown, my brother Robin and Ian Jones.

Jones was the lightweight one but made up for it by winning his line-out ball and getting around the park.

He never made a tackle mind you, but he got around the field like an extra loose forward.

That meant I had a dream ride from the back of the scrum and I see the England tight five giving the likes of Haskell and Rees, who are good runners, the chance to get some front-foot ball.

England have got some exciting backs, such as David Strettle and Topsy Ojo, and Olly Barkley is a good distributor.

I have been talking to a few England fans, who think the All Blacks will win by 20 or 30 points, but I really do not think it is going to be like that.

There has been a lot of knocking of the All Blacks - directed more at the management than the players - and they will be wanting to prove a point.

But I am concerned about how New Zealand will do when the Tri-Nations comes round and I actually think they will come last.

England need to go in with confidence and stick it to the All Blacks on Saturday and I predict the All Blacks will only win by between five and eight points.

Zinzan Brooke was talking to James Standley.

see also
New Zealand v England (Sat)
13 Jun 08 |  English
McCaw and Palmer set for reunion
11 Jun 08 |  English
New Zealand 21-11 Ireland
07 Jun 08 |  Rugby Union

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