The two most influential teams in world rugby lock horns on the weekend – influential in a way that New Zealand play the way they do and how they have managed to remain at the helm for a very long time remaining outright favourites to win the rugby world cup for the 3rd consecutive tournament. England are influential because they are the richest rugby union in the game and their development systems and organisation of the game is second to none.
The two teams are at contrasting times in their journeys, the All Blacks are at the top of their game with even a second tier side putting 69 points past world cup hosts Japan while England seem to have lost the steam they once had and victories are more of a grinding contest than what would normally be the custom, this has seen them drop rank from number two in the world to fourth.
Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, the All Blacks are human and can be knocked off their high horse but if England play as they did against the Springboks, they stand absolutely no chance of even getting near said horse. Very slow, error laden and a detrimental game plan of aimless kicking. England failed to record a try as they scraped past an underwhelming South Africa team; 12-11. You can say that the Springboks were the biggest contributors in their own loss.
What you need to do to beat the All Blacks
Scoring – Yes, this might seem obvious but its the fact – penalty goals rarely beat New Zealand and the opposition need to get out of their shells to put down some five pointers. England is unlikely to have the lion’s share of possession but when New Zealand give away the ball, England have to be selfishly efficient enough to turn that into as many points as possible. Which means the kind of players you have on the day should be as hungry and as attack minded as the visiting kiwis.
Back row selections – “6,7,8” is the pod that has been heavily affected by the injury crisis in the England camp, Tom Curry, who seems to be England’s only break down specialist, was seen on clutches after a highly physical clash with South Africa. To beat the ABs, a team needs to be blessed with one or two “fetchers” but in England’s case where they are a rarity, they need one and “hounds” that are ready to tackle everything and anything that touches the ball across the field – the work rate should be through the roof.
Proper midfield combination – the centres that featured against the Boks were toothless in terms of breaking the gain line, South African centre De Allende had his way the whole time putting England’s 12 and 13 on the back foot for so long. The loss of big ball carriers in the pack has to be compensated somehow and the midfield is just the place to do that – create space for boulders (as i would like to call them) to break the line and get New Zealand on the back foot, the All Blacks are often criticised for continuously being offside and this is a perfect way to exploit that. A fit Manu Tuilagi would be my go to guy for this role.
Capitalising on errors -“There’s a myth that the All Blacks don’t make mistakes; they actually do just that half the time, the opposition is too rattled to capitalise on them. Pressure makes diamonds and a lot of it has to be put from the get go forcing the men in black not to have the comfort to play their way – if they are to express themselves, let them do so with a defence line breathing down their necks.
Resilience in defence – every rugby follower has their team of preference but one thing remains set in stone, the All Blacks are the best attacking rugby team in the world; the patience and dexterity in their game play has seen many succumb. It is no secret that when facing the kiwis, one has to be defensively top notch. What does that mean – no missed tackles (well close to none), proper fielding, immaculate line out and maul defence et cetera and this has to go on until the whistle is blown, any slight slack in defence can see New Zealand turn the smallest opportunities into points.
Increased intensity – England played like they were wearing ankle weights, arguably the most sluggish game i have witnessed in a while and if Eddie Jones thinks that Saturday’s style will defeat a team as fit and well conditioned as the All Blacks, then he is in for a bumpy ride. Intensity in everything done on the pitch has to increase; reaction in defence, the speed of ball from one break down to the next phase, the pace at which players run onto the ball rather than waiting for it.
The decision makers – the players that are meant to make the decisions are crucial to the style and tempo of the game. In this case, the half backs are key – from the game against South Africa, there were hiccups between Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell in how the game was run; very slow and a lot of possession was given away. A recipe for disaster against a team with an unquenchable thirst for victory as the All Blacks. The number ten has to be a very good game manager with an attacking mindset at the back of what he plans to do, keeping ball in hand at most (they can’t score without the ball), contestable kicks putting New Zealand under pressure and not simply hoofing the ball away.
The key to an attacking mindset against the All Blacks is doing it within the realms of structure – utilise the set pieces to get platforms and proper control of the game, these same set pieces gain much needed territory that puts a team within striking distance (every team is vulnerable in their 22 metre zone). Avoid getting too excited with the attacking mentality and being lured into an unstructured game which is a tug of war hard to win against a resilient All Blacks team.
It is literally possible to spend all day talking about the nitty gritties of how to break the “black wall” but the above is enough to get the job done.
My team to beat the All Blacks
1. Harry Williams
2. Dylan Hartley
3. Ben Moon
4. Maro Itoje
6. Mike Rhodes
7. Mark Wilson
8. Zach Mercer
10. George Ford
11. Jack Nowell
12. Owen Farrell
13. Manu Tuilagi
14. Elliot Daly
15. Mike Brown