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Round two: Three key areas

By Ali Donnelly

It's a must win game for New Zealand tomorrow night if they want to level the series going into the weekend. With England choosing to hugely rotate their squad, given the three day turnaround and the comfort of being one game up, New Zealand may not make as many changes, needing their best players out there to get back in the series. Naming their strongest side would be a risk, as playing so many games in such a small window would leave them in a weak position on Saturday, whatever the result of game two, but Grant Hansen will surely resist the urge to shuffle as many players as Gary Street. We've picked out the key areas from game one which could be vital tomorrow night.


Neither team kicked particularly well at the weekend and some aimless punts from England in particular were responsible for handing New Zealand their two best attacking moments in the game.

Victoria Grant and Renee Wickliffe both made fantastic counter attacking breaks as a result of two kicks handed straight to them and it took a superb defensive effort to deny both -particularly Wickcliffe whose run took her almost to the try line. England will have to be better out of hand.

New Zealands kicking was poor all round Mahoneys shot at goal was particularly weak for a player of her class, and a few kicks that went out on the full handed England the initiative.

Kicking has never been a strength of New Zealands but they rarely have to rely on it, so dominant are they usually. It could be different this week where goal kicking could well become a factor.


One real positive for the Black Ferns was the dominance of their scrum at Twickenham and Grant Hansen will be hoping that the injury to hooker Fiaoo Faamausil isnt serious as she played a key role in an excellent set-piece effort. New Zealand werent able to turn their dominance into something positive behind the scrum but if they continue to set a platform as good as they had at the weekend, their backs will have a chance of showing some of the spark they are renowned for.

It was an uncomfortable day for Englands front row in the scrum with Mason and Hunter forced to clean up at the base on numerous occasions and theyll be looking for much improvement here.

Match Fitness.

New Zealands players havent had a top class game since the end of the NPC three months ago and it showed with Hansen admitting as much afterwards. As the clock wound down at Twickenham, England simply looked the fitter side, and if things are tight in the remaining two games, that could play a key factor. Englands players have mostly been playing quality Premiership rugby in recent weeks while many were also in France for two tests just a few weeks ago. Their levels of match-fitness and conditioning are understandably higher and in a week where there are three tests in just seven days that could play a major role.