New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick said the All Blacks would have to be “on their game” in the World Cup semi-final against England, a side he described as both physical and skillful.
Retallick played an hour of the All Blacks’ 46-14 quarter-final demolition of Ireland, a result that set up a last-four clash in Yokohama on Saturday with the English, who saw off Australia 40-16.
“There’s a big rivalry between England and New Zealand,” admitted Retallick, who was World Player of the Year in 2014 and a stalwart of the successful New Zealand side.
“We know they’re always physical,” he said of Eddie Jones’ team. “The forwards are very mobile, they carry the ball well and have good skill-sets, and also the backs play an expansive game.
“They’re a very good English side at the moment, they’ve got great attacking assets across the park and a mobile tight five that are scoring tries from 25 meters out.
“There’s lots of variation so we’ll have to be on our game come the weekend.”
While Retallick has racked up six wins from the seven Tests he has played against England, the towering lock said it was the loss, 38-21 in December 2012, he remembered most.
“The one thing that stands out from that game is the physicality they turned up with,” he said. “Strong ball carries and the physicality at ruck time was huge.
“Who turns up, up front, and wins that physical battle generally comes out on top. I’m guessing it’ll happen again this weekend.”
Flanker Sam Cane played the first half of the victory over Ireland, replaced at half-time by Scott Barrett, and is part of a back row that will face a massive challenge on Saturday, with Sam Underhill, Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola in prime form for England.
“Everyone wants to be playing. I was stoked to start first and foremost and I was happy with the 40 minutes I put out,” Cane said.
“Big games, you want as much of them as you can but you realize it’s a team sport and the coaches are making decisions based on what is the best to get the job done. I’m in a good space.”
Turning to England, whom he has bizarrely never played in a 66-Test career mainly because of badly timed injuries, Cane pinpointed his potential opponent flankers as danger men.
“Underhill and Curry have been pretty impressive,” he acknowledged, saying they both had a “huge appetite for hard work.”
Neither Cane nor Retallick said they took any stock in harking back to previous games between the two sides.
Lock Retallick made the surprise admission that he had never watched the sides’ previous World Cup knock-out meeting, in 1995 when the All Blacks ran out 45-29 winners in the semi-final.
“I’ve never seen the 1995 one, but I’ll be doing everything in my power to come out on top,” Retallick deadpanned.
Cane added: “There’s no point comparing … because this weekend is just a one-off Test match we need to get right. We’ll be putting everything into it and we won’t be drawing comparisons to other years, we’ll just take this game as it is and we know what’s on the line.”