Sport Rugby

Saturday 18 November 2017

Fitzpatrick: McCaw has England defeat 'etched in his brain'

Gavin Mairs

Sean Fitzpatrick has reminded England of the challenge awaiting them at Twickenham on Saturday, saying that Stuart Lancaster's side will be facing the greatest team to have represented the All Blacks and that their sole intent this autumn is to avenge their record defeat last year.

Former New Zealand captain Fitzpatrick warned that England's 38-21 victory last December was "etched in the brain" of captain Richie McCaw and his team and that erasing the stain of that defeat would dominate their emotions on Saturday.

"I was with Richie McCaw in Paris on Monday night and asked him about the game against France and he said all he was worried about was beating England," said Fitzpatrick, who played in 92 Tests for the All Blacks, winning 72 of them including the 1987 World Cup final against France.

"For Richie the date of the match, December 1, 2012, is etched in his brain – along with his colleagues who played in that game.

"As All Blacks we love celebrating success, but we remember our losses more than our wins. When people ask me about my most memorable game for the All Blacks, it was without question when we lost to the Lions in Wellington.

"It was the worst game I played for the All Blacks. I still remember going back into the changing room in 1993 and saying to the team: 'Make a mental note of how you feel now and make sure you never, ever feel this way again'.

"These guys will be thinking: 'I never want to go back to how I was feeling on December 1, 2012.' We got beaten up last year. They'll remember everything that happened after the game, everyone who spoke to them, every Englishman that laughed at them. It will all be very much in their mind for this game."

The defeat at Twickenham is the only game the All Blacks have lost in 33 Test matches, a run that stretches back to August 2011 and Steve Hansen's side have won all 12 matches they have played this year.

It is a record that Fitzpatrick believes gives justification to claims that the side who will run out at Twickenham on Saturday are the best to have worn the famous jersey.

"I think they are. If you look to 2011 (when New Zealand won the World Cup), I always look to the number of world-class players in the team," said Fitzpatrick.

"The class of 2013 is better than 2012 and 2011 in that regard. They are becoming a pretty complete team, which, for me, is really exciting."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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