England vs New Zealand Preview

4 11 2010

England come into this game as huge underdogs. Nothing unusual there then. The All Blacks, despite last weekend’s unexpected and narrow defeat to the Australians, come into these Autumn tests with an unbeaten Tri Nations under their belt and a brand of fast paced and highly skillful rugby that should wow all those that have the opportunity to see them play.

England, whose last game was the single point win over Australia, have picked much the same side as that match and look set to, attempt at any rate, to stifle New Zealand rather than play with any great ambition themselves. Mike Ford, England’s much maligned defence coach, has accused the recent Tri Nations matches  of not being ‘proper test rugby’, a claim that quite frankly beggars belief whilst  only serving to wind up the AB’s. Instead Ford has promised a return to ‘old fashioned rugby’.

This is a prospect that has us groaning to be quite honest as it seems to signify a game plan of little width and interminable drives around the fringes. At least with Ben Youngs at 9 we can expect quick service and a certain amount of desire to spread the ball on occasions.

Playing the AB’s is always difficult – particularly with a backlash likely following their loss to the Aussies – and you can understand why England would not want to employ the game plan they used against Australia in June – i.e. throw it around and get it wide. With the running abilities of the AB’s this could backfire dramatically.

The key as ever is a balance. Disrupt McCaw and friends at the source and once you have your hands on the ball play a mixed game – keep it tight before spreading once you have sucked players in. Sadly we suspect this balanced approach is unlikely to happen as with Johnson’s England it is usually polar opposites – slow and undynamic tight play or caution to the wind wide and wild rugby.

What England need to do is pay attention to the dynamism and speed with which the AB’s, and indeed all Tri Nations teams, hit the breakdown areas.  As with most sports, speed creates problems and if a tight disrupting style is their game plan on Saturday – this is crucial to their chances of success.

Finally from England’s perspective, it is encouraging to see Johnson sticking with the Foden and Ashtons of this world. These players, along with Youngs, are genuine game breakers and should not be scared to run the ball back at the AB’s. As Australia showed last week the New Zealand defence is far from infallible.

As far as the Kiwi’s are concerned, providing they shore up these aforementioned problems in defence this should be, whilst not quite a walk in the park, certainly only a moderate jog. They have the class, they have the game breakers, they have the speed and, perhaps most importantly, they have their aura. A young England side (Tindall and pals excepted) without having any experience of beating the men in black might find this ultimately is the deciding factor. Unwavering belief after all counts for a lot.

With the New Zealand team not named yet there is still doubt about Sonny Bill Williams involvement. For our part at the Compulsive Hooker we would be very pleased to see him as part of the team – he is after all a seriously exciting prospect.

Prediction: New Zealand 34-12 England

Look Out For: An excess of penalties conceded by England around the breakdown as they try to disrupt AB service. Muliaina to be back to his devastating best as he returns poorly directed punts from England’s back line.

 

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4 responses

4 11 2010
Dingo

haha, we dont play proper rugby down south cause we score too many tries, what a absolutely ridiculous thing to say, considering how many world cups and percentage of tri-nations wins against northern opposition, fine, play your tight restrictive rugby, and we’ll score 4 tries playing our giddy goat style and see what happens. your only win down south came from throwing the ball around, and you looked pretty handy at it, give it a try, it’s fun, the crowd love it and it wins games, you know, scoring more than the opposition…….

4 11 2010
Bradders

The problem that England have is that its usually one or the other – not a balanced mix which the best teams employ. Wide crazy rugby is as little help as slow tight rugby.

A tight game could work against the AB’s but it still has to be played at pace with the forwards hitting the line hard. Nick Easter at 8 is going to have to play blindingly well.

Ridiculous comments from Ford.

4 11 2010
Dingo

Well we’re ranked number 2 in the world right now, and I think the ball only goes one route. I think a team needs to play to it’s strengh, I mean a team like ours isn’t going to battle against the forwards from NZ, SA or Eng, but inshallah, we’ll outrun the buggers.
Did you see Sonny Bill looks like he may get a start, good times.

4 11 2010
Bradders

Yes – he’s at 13. Exciting stuff.

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