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Barnes: England Must Use New Zealand Tests to Build for 2027

Barnes: England Must Use New Zealand Tests to Build for 2027

All BlacksMay 21, 2024

England should consider their Test series against New Zealand in July a stepping stone to the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

That's the view of Sunday Times columnist and former England and British & Irish Lions first five-eighths Simon Barnes.

Barnes said, "Winning a Test match in New Zealand would be a mighty achievement, but it's not the equivalent of the knockout stage of a World Cup. England – like their Kiwi opponents – have to plot their way towards 2027."

Both new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson and England coach Steve Borthwick are faced with the same fact: The July series between the hemispheres is only part of Test rugby's journey.

"It's in Australia in 2027 where you just must win.

"England want to beat the All Blacks, but what they must do is maintain the belated development of promise of those Ireland and France performances [in the Six Nations]. Borthwick's team should not be judged purely on results until knockout time. The pressure is off you, England, go and play. And learn a little along the way."

Barnes said the All Blacks will not have played together since the Rugby World Cup final loss to South Africa in Paris last year.

"Players have retired, some are injured, others are taking time out in Japan.

"In contrast, England are playing Japan. They have the advantage of a warm-up game for the first Test against the All Blacks in Dunedin. If the success of this three-Test tour is purely result-based, Steve Borthwick should use Tokyo to prepare his team for the first Test.

"The second Test is at Auckland's Eden Park, where the hosts do not lose. You sense the best opportunity for England to strike is in the South Island."

Barnes pointed to the mid-year Tests' comparative importance and the play-offs at World Cups. Argentina beat the All Blacks in Christchurch, and Ireland won a series 2-1 in New Zealand in 2022. But neither team beat the All Blacks at the last World Cup, Argentina losing a semifinal 6-44 and Ireland losing their quarterfinal 24-28.

An England win over New Zealand would be a psychological boost, but Ireland had learnt World Cups were not won in one-off series.

"There's a balance at play when a rugby team goes on tour. Trying to win is part of the balance, developing the personnel believed to be the core for the next World Cup is the other element."

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