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  Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 00:10 GMT
Solving the All Black mystery
In his exclusive column, England and Newcastle fly-half Jonny Wilkinson talks lucidly about his respect for the All Blacks and his anticpation of what could be one of the great matches of his career.

John Mitchell will be hoping to overthrow Clive Woodward
John Mitchell will be hoping to overthrow Clive Woodward
After all the training, tactics, comments and hype comes the reality.

And when you're facing New Zealand it hits you like a slap in the face.

England are unbeaten in three years at Twickenham, but there are no prizes for guessing the team who took our scalp back in 1999.

It was, of course, the All Blacks, a name normally preceded by a variety of adjectives.

'Mighty', 'mysterious', 'towering' - the list is endless and always appropriate.

Over the years they have proven to be both the most feared and revered of rugby union opponents.

They are always a team greater than the sum of their individual parts. So forget who's in and who's out. It makes no difference to us as players.


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The history of the side and the names of players gone by, tells you everything you need to know.

Sean Fitzpatrick, Buck Shelford, John Kirwan, Zinzan Brooke - I could go on and on.

New Zealand is a remarkable country that develops players of an astonishing level of power, pace and skill.

We can't and won't underestimate them.

I used to ask some of the more experienced players, such as Mike Catt and Jason Leonard, whether it gets any easier playing for England.

Neil Back will tell you the answer. It's a resounding 'no'.

I do feel for Backy. After five years in the side he'll be starting one of the great games on the bench.

As a player he's one of the best I've ever taken the field with and, yet, he's no longer certain of commanding a Test place.


The All Blacks are the McEnroe of tennis - the Ali of boxing - the Pele of football rolled into one
It's a lesson for us all.

There's been a lot of talk about James Simpson-Daniel making the side.

And after his superb try against the Barbarians and Jonah Lomu's inclusion it's obviously inevitable.

We all realise he's a remarkable talent and we must ensure that we nurture him as a player.

At 20-years-old he's still very young, so whatever happens on Saturday, I've no doubt you'll be seeing much more of him in the future.

England's abundance of talent is a great success - but it is no more than the Kiwis have at their disposal.

Not many teams would honestly fancy their chances at Twickenham without their full squad.

In fact I'd go as far to say that only one team in world rugby would - and that's New Zealand.

Carlos Spencer has all the talent in the world
Carlos Spencer has all the talent in the world
Some may be surprised that Carlos Spencer has managed to relegate one of the greats, Andrew Mehrtens, to the bench.

But not me. Carlos has been in great form and we all recognise that he could be a danger on Saturday.

He fully deserves to be there and I intend to give him a great deal of respect.

Spencer, full-back Ben Blair and centre Keith Lowen all more than deserve their places.

Mitch didn't put a foot wrong when he was part of the England set-up and he's no mug.

I'm sure Clive is looking forward to doing battle with him as much as we're anticipating locking horns with his players.

This game could have everything, but one thing I'm certain it will have is ferocity.

I'm even thinking about reconsidering my aversion to gumshields.


England v Australia

England v NZ

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