England injuries point to New Zealand stroll at Twickenham
England were the only team to beat Rugby World Cup-holders New Zealand in 2012, but Stuart Lancaster’s men will struggle to repeat that trick when the sides meet at Twickenham.
The All Blacks have won all 12 of their matches in 2013 and face an England outfit shorn of two Lions props up front.
New Zealand to win with a 13-point handicap @ 10/11
Steve Hansen’s side have been the dominant force in world rugby once again this year, with three 10+ points victories against Australia and two thumping wins against South Africa attained since the start of August.
They also stormed to a 3-0 home series win over France early in the summer and worked hard to overcome Les Bleus 26-19 in their own back yard recently.
England will go into the clash feeling positive after their surprise 38-21 victory last year against an All Blacks side in similarly imperious form at the time.
However, Lions props Alex Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola were hugely influential in the front row on that occasion and both are missing for this fixture.
Harlequins’ Joe Marler will start in Corbisiero’s place at loosehead, with Wasps’ Matt Mullan – who has only played once for his country – taking Vunipola’s spot among the replacements.
They will come up against New Zealand’s 100-cap front-row forwards Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock in the scrum, which is a big ask of such inexperienced players.
With captain Richie McCaw, fly-half Dan Carter and number eight Kieran Read – who is well-fancied to emulate his better-known teammates by winning the IRB Player of the Year award for 2013 – all gunning for revenge, it could be a long 80 minutes or so for Lancaster and co.
Charles Piutau to score the first try @ 9/1
It’s tempting to tip Read to score the first try at 18/1, as the Crusaders star has gone over against South Africa (three times) and France recently.
However, Blues full-back Charlie Piutau’s man-of-the-match performance against the French included a brilliant chase down of Ben Smith’s kick to run in the first try of the match and the flying 22-year-old is worth sticking with at decent odds to be the first to touch down in London.
Ma’a Nonu to score a try @ 5/2
The Highlanders centre – who at 6ft tall and 16st 10lb could easily have made it as a prop – has amassed a whopping 125 points in 86 matches for the All Blacks in a career spanning a decade.
Nonu has been more of a provider than a scorer in recent years and is overdue a try against an elite rugby nation.
The 30-year-old couldn’t convert his chances at Twickenham last December, but Nonu has gone over against England in the past and is a decent price to do so at any time here.