While England continue to agonise over their record mauling at the
hands of South Africa, the All Blacks are more concerned about the side
effects of another of the rugby world champions’ emphatic victories
this season.

All Blacks lock Brad Thorn pinpointed the Springboks 53-8 pummelling of the Wallabies at Johannesburg in August as proof England cannot be taken for granted when New Zealand attempt to complete a Grand Slam at Twickenham on Saturday.

Thorn said Australia responded to that thumping when the Tri-Nations finale played out in Brisbane in mid-September — New Zealand won 28-24, only after recovering from a 7-17 deficit early in the second half.

“We were very lucky to win that game. It shows what a difference a week can make — and what a change in attitude can make,” the 33-year-old lock said.

Thorn, whose career has encompassed stints with some of the most formidable sporting teams in the world, said there was nothing more potentially dangerous that an opponent coming off a hiding.

“Straight away from my experience, it’s like a bit of a negative really,” he said.

“South Africa has done us no favours. It’s going to be real backs against the wall for the English now.

“They have everything to play for — it’s going to be a real dangerous game.”

Thorn continued toeing the All Black line on tour — express dutiful respect for the opposition despite their history of inferiority.

Scotland and Ireland had never beaten the All Blacks in their 103 years of rivalry while Wales last did at Cardiff Arms in 1953.

Of the Home Unions England have by far the most respectable record against New Zealand — six wins, the most recent at Westpac Stadium in 2003.

However, the team Martin Johnson captained that day and the one he now manages are unrecognisable.

While the World Cup winners in Australia were a class above, Johnson’s current squad has only a win over the Pacific Islanders to celebrate.

A rare loss to Australia at Twickenham followed, then on Saturday the Springboks — who said pre-match they were jaded and just wanted to head home — orchestrated a 42-6 hammering.

Ominously for England, Thorn dismissed any notion of the All Blacks being mentally fatigued ahead of their 15th and final test of the season. They were certainly full of life at a pool session at exclusive public school Harrow yesterday.

“We’re enjoying our stuff at the moment. We’ve had Croke Park (Ireland), Millennium Stadium (Wales) and now Twickenham against the English.

“It’s a real privilege to be paid to do this stuff. We’re weary but we’re keen as a team to take on the challenge.”

The line-up to play England will be named tomorrow but was not expected to deviate significantly from the preferred team that has strung together wins in South Africa and away against Australia before accounting for the Irish and Welsh.

Centre Conrad Smith was thought to be the only alteration to the starting side that beat Wales 29-9 last weekend, available again after aggravating a groin injury in Dublin.

Richard Kahui, man of the match against Scotland and impressive against the Welsh, could be relegated to watching the Grand Slam decider from the stands.

Thorn felt continuity of selection was gradually paying dividends.

“We’ve had a bit of time together now. We had the team in against Ireland and the lineout struggled a bit, it wasn’t the flashest sort of rugby but we’re slowly developing combinations.

“The set piece has got so much stronger, the team’s really come together — there’s a lot of character there.”

Johnson, meanwhile, has plenty of personnel issues to deal with before naming his team — not least the tortured soul that is first-five eighth Danny Cipriani.

Touted as the new Johnny Wilkinson, the Wasps’ pivot was booed off Twickenham last weekend — a charged down clearance gifting Ruaan Pienaar a try marked the nadir of a forgettable test for the high-profile 21-year-old.

Cipriani has now had a kick charged down four times in five internationals, an error rate sure to pique the All Blacks interest.

Johnson has to weigh up whether to persevere with the talented youngster or risk damaging him forever if New Zealand — and Dan Carter — run rampant.

He also has injury concerns over New Zealand-born centre Riki Flutey, prop Andrew Sheridan and lock Tom Palmer. World Cup-winning second rower Ben Kay has been brought in as cover.