Farrell backs Eastmond to punch above his weight

England's 5ft 7in centre Kyle Eastmond goes head-to-head with Sonny Bill Williams today. Picture: Getty
England's 5ft 7in centre Kyle Eastmond goes head-to-head with Sonny Bill Williams today. Picture: Getty
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ENGLAND attack coach Andy Farrell has compared the diminutive Kyle Eastmond to Mike Tyson to explain why he has no fears of a midfield mismatch when the England man comes up against the heavyweight Sonny Bill Williams today.

Eastmond will concede five stones in weight and eight inches in height to his rival inside centre and fellow code-switcher when New Zealand open the QBE Series at Twickenham. But Farrell insists Eastmond is well equipped to stop Williams, who will be making only his second appearance since returning to rugby union after a two-year spell back in league.

“Size is irrelevant. Mike Tyson wasn’t that big either but he could knock a few people out (44 knockouts in 50 wins),” Farrell said. “Kyle’s a completely different type of player. That’s what makes a rugby team – you need a different blend of all sorts to be able to get around the pitch and do what you want to do. Kyle’s a smart footballer and behind that intelligence he’s pretty tough as well. He’s a feisty 5ft 7in and he’s super-excited about this game coming up.”

The selection of Fiji-born Semesa Rokoduguni has caused a stir of excitement with the serving British Army soldier, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, making his debut on the right wing where he will face the prolific Julian Savea. Rokoduguni has been crowned Aviva Premiership player of the month for October and Farrell has challenged the Bath flyer to replicate the pace, power and clever footwork he has shown for his club all season in the Test arena.

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“We want Roko to be himself because he’s an outstanding footballer who backs himself, makes things happen and takes people on,” Farrell said. “He’s a threat in the air and has got a lot of courage as far as that is concerned, which is pretty important in international rugby for a winger. He runs good lines and does not accept people tackling him and you need players who can create something out of nothing. He certainly can do that and hopefully he can bring his A game at the weekend for us.”

England’s countdown to next year’s home World Cup begins in earnest when New Zealand launch an autumn schedule that continues with fixtures against South Africa, Samoa and Australia.

It will be the last time the rivals meet before they challenge for the Webb Ellis Cup, currently held by the All Blacks.

Since demolishing the reigning world champions 38-21 at Twickenham in 2012, England have lost four successive times to Richie McCaw’s men including a 3-0 whitewash on the summer tour in June.

The reigning world champions are 1-3 favourites to win today and McCaw, who will earn his 135th cap, says their motivation this afternoon extends beyond accumulating a fifth successive victory over England.

“We’ve talked a little bit about this being the last time we are here in England playing at a place where hopefully we will get a crack to play at next year,” McCaw said. “I guess the thing you try to do is get the performance right because we want to play well and get a win and if that’s got anything that flows on to next year then that’s good.

“If I said that’s the only reason we want to win, that’s not true. As we have seen even this year a week’s a long time in rugby, let alone ten months.

“But I guess at a venue against an opposition we could potentially play next year it would be nice to go away with a bit of time off and a good feeling.”

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