TOKYO, 24 Oct - England and New Zealand will lock horns for only the third time in five years in Yokohama on Saturday night.
But although the fixture has been a rarity in the rugby calendar in recent history, a delve slightly further back into the record books uncovers a number of classic encounters, none more so than this quartet of unforgettable matches.
1995 World Cup semi-final (Cape Town, 18 June)
New Zealand 45-29 England
This is perhaps the most revisited World Cup contest of all thanks to those timeless images of Jonah Lomu, above, at the zenith of his powers trampling all over England for four tries.
Who can ever tire of the sight of the late, great Jonah working his magic? Not even his biggest fall guy Mike Catt, who was at RWC 2019 as Italy’s backs coach, and reflected cheerily: "I love it … I did everything right, other than Will Carling tap-tackling him and making him stumble towards me. The three times after that? He just ran around me."
Lomu was so transcendent that day it is easy to forget just how heartily England fought to get back into a match in which they were dead and buried at 35-3 down with just over half an hour to play. Their four second-half tries in the face of being 'Lomu-ised' did them huge credit.
There was also another unforgettable moment that did not involve the giant winger.
It came with New Zealand having raced into a 17-0 lead in the first quarter when, after picking up a booted clearance, their burly number eight Zinzan Brooke advanced a few steps into England’s half.
"He's trying a drop kick from a million miles out," screamed the excitable Kiwi commentator. "What a goal. He'll never stop talking about that for as long as he lives."
2003 tour match (Wellington, 14 June)
New Zealand 13-15 England
It had been 30 years since captain John Pullin led England to a first win on New Zealand soil, and when Clive Woodward’s men ran out in the wind and rain of Wellington in 2003 they were hoping to convince not only the All Blacks, but also the rest of the sport that they were genuine contenders for the Rugby World Cup being staged in Australia later that year.
What unfolded has become the stuff of rugby legend as the six forwards still on the pitch for England - after Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio had received yellow cards - withstood four scrums on their own line against the full power of the All Blacks eight-strong pack to secure a 15-13 victory, with all of England’s points coming from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson, below, who added a trademark drop goal to four penalties.
Remarkably, England won the period when they were down to 13 men 3-0 in a match in which everything seemed to go their way. All Black fly-half Carlos Spencer missed critical kicks, scrum-half Justin Marshall pulled his hamstring after a sweeping attack with the try line just a short distance away and number eight Rodney So’oailo was penalised for a double movement as he drove for the line.
The six heroic figures repelling the All Black scrum drives were the front-row of loose-head Graham Rowntree, hooker Steve Thompson and tight-head Phil Vickery. Locking the scrum were captain Martin Johnson and Ben Kay, with Richard Hill, the current England team manager, all that was left of the normal back-row unit.
Seven of those forwards would play their part in winning the Rugby World Cup five months later, but there was to be no medal for Rowntree, who was not selected for the final squad for Australia. It was a cruel blow, but at least he knew he had played a major role in giving England the confidence to claim the trophy.
2004 tour match (Dunedin, 12 June)
New Zealand 36-3 England
Almost a year to the day after England had gone to Wellington and ground out that famous win as a prelude to winning the 2003 World Cup, New Zealand, who had been beaten in the semi-finals of that tournament by Australia, were itching to show the new champions they were still the real top dogs.
In Dunedin's 'House of Pain', Graham Henry began his reign as New Zealand coach by overseeing a comprehensive dismantling of Clive Woodward's team in the most torturous way with a 30-point first half performance of such brilliance that England's triumph in Sydney seven months earlier seemed a dim and distant memory.
It was at the end of a long season for England's players and they looked weary and a little rudderless without World Cup totems Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson and Jason Robinson but still their much-touted pack, led by captain Lawrence Dallaglio, was out-muscled and out-played. There were, reckoned Dallaglio, no excuses.
Tries from Carlos Spencer, Doug Howlett and Joe Rokocoko put the match out of sight by the interval and there was an early illustration, with Richie McCaw in day-of-the-jackal mode and Dan Carter kicking goals from everywhere for 21 points, of how New Zealand were going to blossom under the great duo's controlling excellence.
"There is nothing quite like a real hiding to kick yourself into gear," said scrum-half Matt Dawson, as he tried to rally the team to roar back the following week in the second test in Auckland. Yet England went on to lose that one too, 36-12. It felt as if the old order was being ruthlessly restored.
2012 tour match (Twickenham, 1 December)
England 38-21 New Zealand
This was a performance built around Manu Tuilagi’s power, pace and guile and proved to new England coach Stuart Lancaster that he could assemble a team capable of erasing the memory of the unhappy Rugby World Cup campaign in New Zealand in 2011 when off-field problems became a real factor.
Tuilagi had been warned by police for jumping off a ferry in Auckland harbour but, on this occasion, he made headlines for all the right reasons. What Lancaster and the rest of English rugby did not know was that injuries and disciplinary problems would make Tuilagi repeatedly unavailable as the country prepared to host the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Using his running power to punch holes in the New Zealand defence, the Leicester centre, above, was magnificent as the All Blacks' 20-game unbeaten run came to an abrupt halt. He scored one of England's tries himself - intercepting a loose pass to canter 50 metres to the line with the Twickenham crowd on their feet - and created the other two for Brad Barritt and Chris Ashton.
Although at one stage New Zealand rallied to trail by only one point having been 15-0 behind, the winning margin of 17 points was a record for England and, while the All Blacks could have used the effects of a debilitating virus during the week as an excuse for some of their players suffering in the game, there was no denying Tuilagi’s match-winning impact.