England’s forwards will need to maintain the form they discovered in the Six Nations if they want to compete against the All Blacks this weekend, lock Joe Launchbury said on Wednesday.
The tourists will field a weakened side in the opening Test in Auckland, with many first-choice players unavailable because they played in the Premiership final between Northampton and Saracens last Saturday.
But Launchbury said the players lining up to face the world champions at Eden Park on Saturday were primed for the challenge, despite being written off by many pundits.
“It’s a really confident group, a young group… everyone’s come in and is really excited about the task ahead, not only this game but the games to follow,” he said.
“It’s been quite a long week to get into Test week but we’ve trained really well in the last few days.”
The 23-year-old said England could not afford to make any mistakes against the vastly experienced All Blacks at a ground where the home side have not lost a Test since 1994.
He said England’s pack needed to recreate their Six Nations form, when they narrowly missed out on the title after recovering from a disappointing start to dominate their rivals and deliver four consecutive wins.
“As a pack of eight it’s going to be a big test for us at the weekend,” he said.
“We need to pick up where we left off in the Six Nations — the blend of game we started developing about stressing teams and moving them around the pitch worked really well.
“Hopefully we’ll pick up there and continue to improve.”
The England players who took part in last weekend’s Premiership decider arrived in Auckland on Wednesday but will not be considered for selection until the second Test in Dunedin on June 14.
Meanwhile, England inside centre Billy Twelvetrees is reportedly set to miss out on the Eden Park opener after failing to recover from an ankle injury he suffered playing for Gloucester last month.
Bath’s Kyle Eastmond is expected to replace him in the number 12 jersey, earning his third cap for England.