Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks braced for England forward assault

If Yokohama's wet weather continues into the weekend, it will add to what's already expected to be a titanic forward battle between New Zealand and England in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

The opposing packs are more than ready for a clash that could go a long way towards deciding which team advances to next week's final,

The England pack prides itself on physicality, offering aggression in contact, and power and precision at set-piece.

They're desperate to prove themselves on the biggest stage.

"Every inch this week is massively important," says England No.8 Billy Vunipola. 

"We want to be the best pack in the world and New Zealand are the best team in the world for a reason," echoes brother and prop Mako Vunipola. "It all starts up front."

The All Blacks are relishing that contest.

"That's where the war's going to be won or lost," says assistant coach Ian Foster. 

"We're going to have to be up for it on attack and defence to able to match fire with fire," says prop Joe Moody. "It should be a big old ding-dong battle."

all blacks squad
Photo credit: Newshub.

For Moody, it's a chance to revisit an old rivalry - opposite Kyle Sinckler made quite an impression during the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour.

"I haven't really had any focus on anyone in particular," he says. "But there have been some classic forward battles between us in the past - it should be good to get out there."

Does anyone talk a bigger game than Sinckler, asks Newshub's Andrew Gourdie.

"There are plenty out there that like to talk it up," chuckles Moody. "We're just looking forward to that battle out there with them and hopefully we can get one up.

rwc playoffs
Photo credit: Newshub.

The All Blacks' hopes of repeating the backline masterclass that tore Ireland apart in last week's quarter-final could be stifled by wild weather.

Backs coach Foster knows the forwards may have to bring a match-winning display this time round.

"My serious advice to 'Moods' is just to push and push harder," quips Foster. "That's about the limite of my [expertise].

"We've just got to learn how to adapt and adjust. There's no reason not to - it's the semi-final of a World Cup, so we'll be ready either way."

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

Everything you need to know about rugby and the World Cup...

The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

Join us at 9pm Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks England Rugby World Cup semi-final.

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