Taranaki Daily News - - Sport - Richard Knowler richard.knowler@stuff.co.nz

All Blacks have li­cence to thrill against Eng­land

Steve Hansen wants the All Blacks to ter­rorise Eng­land with power, speed and dar­ing.

The All Blacks coach has banged his cards on the ta­ble by nam­ing a side con­tain­ing Brodie Re­tal­lick as a run-on lock for the first time in two months, Aaron Smith back at half­back, two play­mak­ers in Beau­den Bar­rett at No 10 and Damian McKen­zie at full­back, and a fully fit Jack Good­hue at cen­tre.

Bar­ring the ab­sence of prop Joe Moody, forced to with­draw be­cause of a split eye­lid and un­avail­able for the rest of the tour, this is ar­guably the strong­est team the All Blacks could field at Twick­en­ham on Sun­day morn­ing.

You don’t pick a side like this if you want to bung the ball in the air, and en­sure the halfway line is in the rear vi­sion mir­ror be­fore do­ing any­thing ad­ven­tur­ous.

De­spite Eng­land be­ing ex­pected to bring a fast de­fen­sive line, as the British and Ir­ish Lions did in New Zealand last year, Hansen will stick with the ethos that his play­ers should be al­lowed to make de­ci­sions based on what is un­fold­ing in front of them, rather than fol­low a paint-by-num­bers plan.

First things first, though. He had to as­sess Eng­land’s threats, and has a pretty good idea what they will be.

‘‘They might trick us and come out and play ex­pan­sive, run­ning rugby,’’ Hansen said. ‘‘But I don’t think so.’’

So there you have it. He, like 99 per cent of the rugby pop­u­la­tion in both hemi­spheres, ex­pects the Ed­die Jones-coached English­men to min­imise the risks by chas­ing punts from Ben Youngs and Owen Far­rell, use their for­wards to be com­bat­ive in all con­tact ar­eas and smother any­thing that wrig­gles in black with de­fen­sive hits.

Hansen said if Eng­land want to play that way, that’s their busi­ness: ‘‘It doesn’t mean they are a bet­ter side, or worse side than us. They just play dif­fer­ent. If you look at the test match [against South Africa] last week, a lot of peo­ple think how they kick it all the time and that it is pretty neg­a­tive rugby.

‘‘But they don’t give you many op­por­tu­ni­ties to do things. And they pride them­selves on that, and they hang in there.’’

There is an el­e­ment of risk in what the All Blacks are propos­ing to do at Twick­en­ham, es­pe­cially with the mer­cu­rial McKen­zie, who started at No 15 when the All Blacks’ A-lis­ters beat the Wal­la­bies 37-20 in Yoko­hama on Oc­to­ber 27, per­mit­ted to back him­self if he sees space.

It was Hansen him­self who once de­scribed McKen­zie as a ‘‘fly in the bot­tle’’, his way of say­ing you take the rough with the smooth with his op­tion-tak­ing.

No doubt the se­lec­tors would ar­gue McKen­zie is a more re­li­able model now, and clearly they were en­cour­aged by the way he helped take the pres­sure off Bar­rett in Yoko­hama as a sec­ond play­maker.

‘‘Ev­ery­body in our team has a clear li­cence to play what is in front of them,’’ Hansen said. ‘‘That is how I got brought up play­ing. The op­po­si­tion tell you what you can do, and can’t do. So my ex­pec­ta­tion is that if it’s on to counter, then we counter.

‘‘If it is not on, then we don’t. Damian doesn’t miss too many op­por­tu­ni­ties. He likes it, so we are as­sum­ing we will see it at some point.’’

At a glance

Damian McKen­zie, Ben Smith, Jack Good­hue, Sonny Bill Wil­liams, Rieko Ioane, Beau­den Bar­rett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Brodie Re­tal­lick, Sam White­lock, Owen Franks, Codie Tay­lor, Karl Tu’inukuafe. Re­serves: Dane Coles, Ofa Tu’un­gafasi, Nepo Laulala, Scott Bar­rett, Matt Todd, TJ Per­e­nara, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty.

All Blacks:


The All Blacks, here vis­it­ing the work­shop of For­mula One team McLaren in Wok­ing yes­ter­day, aim to turn on the speed with their se­lec­tion to play Eng­land in Lon­don this week­end.

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