Eddie Jones is impatient for New Zealand’s visit to Twickenham after declaring England ready to prove themselves against the benchmark in world sport.
A rousing 12-11 victory over a South Africa team close to full strength launched the autumn series in enthralling fashion to raise expectations for the long-awaited showdown with Steve Hansen’s All Blacks on Saturday.
It is four years since the rivals last met due to a quirk of the fixture list and Jones insists injury-depleted England know they can engineer an upset that would land a psychological blow ahead of next year’s World Cup.
“I said to the boys after South Africa that I can’t wait. I cannot wait,” the head coach said.
“They are the benchmark for world rugby, the team you want to play against. Where are you in the world? You only know when you play against the All Blacks.
“Any team that wins 91 per cent of their games is a great team. What other teams in world sport do that?
“You’ve got to believe you can beat them. You’ve got to understand where they’re weak, understand where they’re strong and be disciplined in your game plan. We will be well prepared for them.”
England staggered through the first half of the year, a dreadful Six Nations followed by a 2-1 series defeat in South Africa as five losses were incurred from six Tests.
But by toppling the Springboks against the odds despite missing key players such as the Vunipola brothers, Chris Robshaw and Joe Launchbury, they have created the conviction that 2018 can end strongly.
“I didn’t need this to make me believe we can beat the All Blacks – I thought we could beat the All Blacks back in 2016. Nothing has changed there,” Jones said.
“But the win just makes everyone feel a bit better. If you lose a game like that, it’s harder to pick the players up. Now we won’t have to pick them up.
“The belief you get from winning those tight games is enormous. That’s the big thing for us.”
Owen Farrell, the indomitable driving force behind England’s refusal to crumble in the face of South Africa’s onslaught, dismissed the All Blacks aura of invincibility.
“Anyone can be beaten. I don’t think any team is unbeatable. They got beat not so long ago, didn’t they?” Farrell said.
Ben Te’o, who faced New Zealand for the British and Irish Lions in 2017, is relishing the prospect of Saturday’s second Quilter International after making his comeback from thigh and calf injuries.
“They’re the number one team in the world and have been there for a long time. They’ve won successive World Cups. So we’ll see where we’re at,” Te’o said.
“New Zealand are an all-round team. They have skill, size and power and they always turn up and play with passion."
“It’s been a difficult few months, but this was a great win. It’s built morale because the last few minutes were outstanding.”