Manu Tuilagi, architect of England’s greatest win over New Zealand, has been given the all-clear for another crack at the world champions.
The wrecking-ball centre scored a try and made two more as the All Blacks were smashed 38-21 at Twickenham six years ago.
Injuries have dogged him since that record-breaking win, with a hamstring strain forcing him out of the victory over South Africa last Saturday.
But he was passed fit on Tuesday and coach Eddie Jones, reeling from the loss of flanker Tom Curry for the rest of the Autumn series, immediately recalled the 27-year-old for a contest which has all of rugby licking its lips.
“We want to throw our game plan at them, so it’s great to have Manu back,” said Ben Youngs.
“We’re not looking to contain, we’re not going out and seeing what they’ve got.
“Against the All Blacks you have to score tries. It’s about really taking the game to them, with or without the ball. We all know what a world-class operator Manu is.”
If England needed any reminder of how potent a rugby force New Zealand are, Will Carling was back in a Red Rose tracksuit on Tuesday to pass on his experience.
Carling, hired as a mentor, captained England to victory over the All Blacks in 1993 – but was also on the end of Jonah Lomu’s unforgettable four-try salvo at the World Cup two years later.
With defence coach John Mitchell a former All Blacks boss and forwards Dylan Hartley and Brad Shields both born and raised in New Zealand, there is no shortage of inside knowledge.
Shields captained a Hurricanes team full of All Blacks until earlier this year and even lodged with star fly-half Beauden Barrett this summer.
He tried to play down the magnitude of Saturday’s clash for him, but All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster admitted there were “mixed opinions” on his defection.
“You’ll probably find people and family that are close that support it,” he said. “Others may have a different view on players jumping into a national team from another country so quickly.”
The pre-match rivalry was further stoked by Chris Ashton’s suggestion that Kiwi players “don’t pay too much attention” to English rugby.
In 2014 All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick referred to opposite number Courtney Lawes as Michael when asked to name an England player.
Four years on Ashton claimed: “Speaking to guys like (2015 World Cup winner) Malakai Fekitoa, literally he didn’t know what the Premiership or European Cup was. He didn’t have any idea.
“They obviously have a really good league out there. Maybe ours isn’t shown their TV!”
FORWARDS Charlie Ewels (Bath), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Alec Hepburn (Exeter), Maro Itoje and George Kruis (Saracens), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Zach Mercer (Bath), Ben Moon (Exeter), Brad Shields (Wasps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Sam Underhill (Bath), Harry Williams (Exeter), Mark Wilson (Newcastle).
BACKS Chris Ashton (Sale), Danny Care (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford and Jonny May (Leicester), Jack Nowell and Henry Slade (Exeter), Ben Te’o (Worcester), Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs (Leicester).
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