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Hill stresses importance of opener

Former England flanker Richard Hill views Saturday's opener with New Zealand as the pivotal fixture of the QBE Series.

South Africa, Samoa and Australia will also visit Twickenham over the coming weeks, but World Cup winner Hill believes it is the performance against the All Blacks that will underpin the success of the autumn.

England host the sport's global showpiece next year and Hill has urged Stuart Lancaster's men to issue a statement of intent.

"If I was involved with England I'd be looking at New Zealand because it's the game that will set the tone for November," Hill said.

"It's the game that has the ability to galvanise supporters and provide a huge confidence boost going into a four-match series.

"If they went out and beat New Zealand and demonstrated their belief, then that would be a great statement in world rugby.

"England can definitely win - they're in a better place than they were two years ago when they beat them.

"I'm sure that memory still sticks in the minds of New Zealand, even though they have beaten England four times since then."

Hill, who won 71 England caps in an international career spanning 1997 to 2204, insists England can still challenge for the Webb Ellis Cup even if they fall to the southern hemisphere giants this month.

"There's an angle that people want at the moment and that's if England don't win these, then they can't win the World Cup, but clearly that's not true," Hill said.

"But, from a confidence point of view, of course you want to be winning these games and making a statement.

"It would be great for the confidence of this group of players to beat the significant southern hemisphere teams, in particular New Zealand and South Africa who have been at the top of the tree for a few years.

"It's the chance to say to those teams 'we're as good as you and we're going to prove it'."

* Richard Hill is an ambassador for England Rugby Travel, Official Travel Agent for Rugby World Cup 2015 in Great Britain, which is offering travel-inclusive ticket packages for all 48 matches of the Tournament next year. www.englandrugbytravel.com

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