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England head coach Stuart Lancaster admits that facing New Zealand this autumn will be the ultimate test for his men.
The Red Rose pulled off a remarkable 38-21 victory over the All Blacks last year in what is certainly Lancaster’s best result while at the helm of the England side.
The World Cup winners will be back in the northern hemisphere in November looking for revenge and should be full of confidence after retaining their Rugby Championship crown with a 38-27 victory in South Africa last Saturday.
Lancaster is a big fan of New Zealand rugby and believes that they set the standard that others must try to reach.
“They are the benchmark, not just for teams in rugby but sporting teams in the world in terms of their consistency,” he said. “The consistency of performance they’ve put in has been exceptional.”
England kick off their autumn programme against Australia on November 2 and will play Argentina a week later before the big clash with the All Blacks on November 16.
The Wallabies have not been at their best this year but did end their Rugby Championship campaign with a 54-17 thrashing of the Pumas.
And Lancaster believes it would be folly to focus solely on New Zealand and dismiss the Australian challenge.
“I saw Australia’s performance in Argentina. It was really strong – as good as I’ve seen in this season,” he added.
“If we get too far ahead of ourselves we will be in trouble. Our priority is focusing on Australia, who have found their feet again after a long run of games together.”