England are trying hard to shrug off the ominous news that Dan Carter should be fit to face them at Twickenham, insisting that the All Blacks are beatable this weekend.
No one has defeated New Zealand in their past 20 Tests but the England centre Brad Barritt believes the world's No1 team may yet be in for a surprise.
While Carter is confident of recovering from the sore calf which sidelined him for the Wales game, Barritt says England are in the mood to puncture the world champions' aura. "No team's invincible … we won't go in there thinking they are gods on a rugby field," said Barritt, who enjoyed some success against his midfield opponents Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu during his Super Rugby career with the Sharks.
"At the end of the day they're just humans with two legs and two arms. We need to raise our game, really impose what we can on them and not give them any status that's going to help them. We still have a lot of belief in this team and we can take a lot of pride in what we've done over the last three weeks. We haven't come off on the right side of the scoreboard but if we channel our energy and back each other, there's no reason why we can't pull off an upset."
The last time England defeated New Zealand was in Wellington during 2003 but Andy Farrell, the current team's assistant coach, is also making optimistic noises. "We've got it in us to take our game to New Zealand," said Farrell. "They're as good as it gets at the moment and they're playing some outstanding stuff but if you have a champion's attitude you can knock over champions. We've got to make sure we have that."
England will go in with virtually the same players beaten 16-15 by South Africa. There are only two changes to the match-day 23, with the uncapped Freddie Burns replacing the injured Toby Flood and the fit-again Courtney Lawes preferred to Mouritz Botha. Both Burns and Lawes are set to be on the bench and Owen Farrell will wear the No10 jersey.
Carter, meanwhile, remains keen to participate in the final game of the All Blacks' long year and win his 94th cap. "Hopefully I'll be ready, nothing's changed over the last couple of days," he said. "I'm pretty confident I'll be right to play, I just need some positive thinking. It's the last game of the year and I want to be part of it."
He was both modest and diplomatic when asked why England have not enjoyed more success against the All Blacks over the past decade. "I'm surprised England haven't done more since 2003. They've shown the strength of their side only in patches … maybe consistency is what's been lacking. They've got the players, so talent's not an issue. They can beat any side on their day."
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