I don't buy talk of the 'All Black aura' the Kiwis are beatable, insists England's Watson
Anthony Watson knows how it feels to beat New Zealand and the wing is adamant he and his England team-mates don’t accept any notion of All Black invincibility.
The 25-year-old Bath speed merchant was a fixture in the Lions side when the last British and Irish crusade ended in a 1-1 series draw against the world champions in 2017. Being part of the Lions’ historic victory in Wellington provides a positive memory for Watson to draw on.
But yesterday he made clear he has never seen these vaunted opponents as untouchable.
"I was never too fazed by the whole mystique of the All Blacks," he said. "I respect the prolonged success they’ve had as a team, but the whole aura that surrounds them and the invincible stuff - I never bought into that.
"They are rugby players and we’re rugby players. We work very hard and they work very hard. They are definitely beatable. They are humans at the end of the day. There’ll be 23 of them and 23 of us on Saturday. They’re human beings and rugby players just like us. So we’ve just got to do what we can do and play our best rugby."
Asked if what happened with the Lions would give him additional belief, Watson added: "As an experience, yes, 100 per cent. But personally, it doesn’t change the mindset. I believe I had that mindset before; that they are beatable. The boys came close to beating them in November."
Last weekend, Ireland appeared beaten before their quarter-final against the All Blacks even started. They trailed 22-0 at half-time and, despite belatedly showing fight, they went on to lose 46-14. Watson agreed that an important task for England this week is to ensure they are not spooked by New Zealand’s reputation.
"I think the mental part of the game is definitely massive," he said. "We won’t let the occasion dictate anything to us.
"I thought we did that very well last weekend, managed by our leaders like Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola. Guys like that were on it all week and it will be the same again this week."
Eddie Jones was also asked about the perceived aura around the New Zealand team, who are striving to win the World Cup for a third time in succession.
"Our guys have experienced it on the Lions tour," Jones said. "They went down there, they played in their back yard, they know they’re human. They bleed, they drop balls, they miss tackles like every other player."
There will be a concerted English effort in the days ahead to demystify the challenge in front of them.
If Jones’s team are to have a chance of causing an upset, they cannot subconsciously put their rivals on pedestals.
Most countries’ teams see that iconic black shirt with the silver fern, and they wilt.
England are hell-bent on avoiding that familiar trap.Daily Mail