England to play All Blacks in 2018 after four-year wait

LONDON: England will face the All Blacks for the first time in four years in the standout fixture of next year's autumn Test series as they build towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Eddie Jones's side will also face the two other southern hemisphere giants, Australia and South Africa, as well as Japan, giving a good gauge of their strength in the run-up to the four-yearly showpiece in Japan.

Due to a quirk of the international fixture list, England have not played New Zealand since 2014 — a frustrating hiatus that led to aborted attempts to arrange a match this autumn.

In 2014 England lost four times to the All Blacks, including a three-Test series in New Zealand. They last beat their rivals in 2012.

England, second in the international rankings behind the All Blacks, have won 19 of their 20 Tests under head coach Eddie Jones, facing all major nations except Steve Hansen's All Blacks during that run.

"We will have to work hard and be smart in what we do to bridge the gap between us and the All Blacks," said Jones, who wants England to be the world's top team going into the World Cup.

"The 2018 series is incredibly important for England as we build towards the World Cup," he added.

"We want to win that series 4-0 and we will need to play extremely well to beat four very good teams over a four-week period.

"The series will give us a really good indicator of where we are as a squad a year out from the World Cup and gives us a real focus on what we have to do over the next 12 months to be ready for that series and win."

England will host South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on Nov 3 in the first match of the 2018 series. They play the All Blacks on Nov 10, Japan on Nov 17 and Australia on Nov 24. — AFP