Memory of 2012 defeat to England still fresh in Brodie Retallick's mind
When Brodie Retallick was asked five years ago if he knew about any of the England players who had just arrived for a three-Test tour to New Zealand, he replied he was familiar with a couple. When asked to name one he cited a former mayor of Whanganui.
Retallick, who has turned from a 23-year old establishing himself on the international stage to arguably the leading second row in the world, came up with the name of Michael Laws when he had intended to reference one of England’s locks, Courtney Lawes.
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Like Retallick, Lawes is expected to be involved in Saturday’s semi-final between the holders New Zealand and England in Yokohama, the first World Cup knock-out match between the sides since 1995 when Jonah Lomu trampled all over the men in white in Cape Town.
“I have great respect for England’s players,” said Retallick, who continued his comeback from a shoulder injury by playing for an hour against Ireland in the quarter-final, having been on the field for just 30 minutes in the group stage. “We know who they are and what they are about.
“We look at every opposition going into a weekend, but we are also focused on what we are going to do. There is a big rivalry between New Zealand and England. We did not play them for three years after the last World Cup, but when we faced them at the end of last year we just managed to come out on top.
“They are physical with a big, mobile pack and have good skill sets while their backs attack with a lot of variation. We know we are going to have to be on our game this weekend. They have threats across the park and a prop who scores tries from 25 metres out.”
England head coach Eddie Jones believes New Zealand could be considered the greatest sporting side ever. Did Retallick think this was England’s greatest ever rugby side? “I have not watched enough of them in years gone by to say that,” he said. “It is nice of Eddie to say that about us, but it is not something I have thought about.”Quick guide
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England have beaten New Zealand just once since 2003– in 2012. Retallick was one of five players in the All Blacks’ squad that day who are in Japan; Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read and Dane Coles are the others.
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“I have played against England seven times but that is the game I remember well,” said Retallick. “The one thing that stands out is the physicality they turned up with. They had strong ball-carriers and were very physical in the rucks. The team that wins the physical battle generally comes out on top and I guess it will happen again this weekend. We have to make sure we turn up with the right attitude.”
Retallick said he was ready to go for 80 minutes against England. “That is out of my control but I was happy with my work on the weekend. It was definitely a step up from my previous 30 minutes [against Namibia]. I just liked being back out there and part of the team.”