Mako Vunipola England vs New Zealand: How to beat the unbeatable All Blacks – the Chris Ashton column

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It’s a special name because it’s not what they’re called, yet we all know them as the All Blacks. It’s a name that puts the fear of God into everybody when you’re playing them because they have been forever and a day the best team in the world. But there’s also a bit of excitement when you hear the name. You want to play the best, you want to see the best play, and you want to see where you’re at yourself by playing a team like the All Blacks. Yes there is fear, but there’s an excitement around it, it gives you a lot of energy just being involved with such an unbelievable team and its exactly what England will be feeling on Saturday when they run out in a World Cup semi-final.

I remember the last time we beat the All Blacks well. It may be seven years since that day at Twickenham but those memories remain as clear now as they did then. We’d lost a few games before it, Stuart Lancaster was under a bit of pressure and we were all under a lot of pressure to get a win.

We were at home and it always helps being at Twickenham. New Zealand had been on this long winning run, it was their end-of-year tour and the last game of the season for them, so a lot was going right and in place for us to do well. We also had a certain Manu Tuilagi who was absolutely pulling up trees that day. He definitely added to that and thank goodness he’s playing for us this weekend!

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In 2012 – as we were last autumn when we narrowly lost a game we should have won against New Zealand – we had played South Africa the week before. I’d like to think that your mentality doesn’t change no matter who the opponent is, but because of the success the All Blacks have had, you know in your head that you have to go up a level. You wouldn’t have thought about South Africa any differently, but when it comes to an All Blacks game, you know you’re going to get everything bang on, otherwise they will catch you out.

You have to cover everything that you can in your head, and be in an even better place than you’ve ever been before concentration-wise to make sure you’ve got your job right.

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I asked Ma’a Nonu when I was at Toulon about the All Blacks from when I’d played against him, trying to find out what they did and how they went about their business. He said a few times that they would use what was said in the press to motivate t

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