Jamie George insists England are braced to face New Zealand at their most devastating after being served notice of what Saturday’s Twickenham showdown means to the world champions.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has billed the clash as bigger than last year’s series against the British and Irish Lions, which finished in a 1-1 stalemate after three gripping Tests.
“It makes us aware of where their heads are at for the game. The way they’ve spoken this week is exciting and we’re ready to rip into it,” Saracens hooker George said.
The rivals meet for the first time since 2014 with New Zealand overwhelming favourites to land a psychological blow ahead of the 2019 World Cup, and England are eager to discover their place in the global hierarchy.
“We’ve been thinking about this game for a little while. When Eddie first came in he said we want to be the best team in the world and New Zealand are that at the moment,” George said.
“We want to measure ourselves against those guys and see how far away we are.”
Five of Eddie Jones’ starting XV have experienced victory over New Zealand, the most recent win coming on a Lions tour which produced a memorable triumph in Wellington in the second Test.
“That day is probably the best feeling of my rugby career so far and hopefully we can repeat that,” said George, who was the first choice hooker throughout the series.
“Half of us have beaten the All Blacks before and we’ve drawn on those experiences this week.
“We’ve spoken about what we need to do to beat them and what worked previously. That will be very valuable for us. We’ve focused on why we won those games.
“If you’re slightly off against the All Blacks they’ll take advantage. They want to do things on their terms the whole time.
“We have to put our stamp on the game. When I’ve played in teams that did that previously we’ve been successful.”
England enter the clash armed with possibly the game’s deadliest finisher after Chris Ashton was given his first international start for four years, displacing Jack Nowell from the right wing.
His return to the team was hastened by a call made to Jones last year by attack coach Scott Wisemantel, who was working as an assistant at Montpellier before joining England’s back room staff.
Ashton was playing for Toulon and while in the process of setting a new try-scoring record for the Top 14, Wisemantel raved about his stellar form to Jones.
By the end of the season, Ashton had decided to leave France for Sale, making him available for England once again.
“Chris was on fire during his season in France. The thing that impressed me most is that in that French league you can have very, very good players who when they get there deteriorate because they get lazy,” Wisemantel said.
“But as the season progressed, he not only maintained speed but also got faster. That shows he’s a pro who takes his rugby seriously.
“I said to Eddie have you have seen Ashton play? He’s on fire! And Eddie goes ‘yeah mate’.
“It wasn’t a long conversation, it was just one of those ones where you go ‘let’s put this bloke on the radar’. He was consistent and dominant in the Top 14.”