Ben Ryan

Rugby World - - CONTENTS -

s o what threat do the all Blacks pose to the lions in at­tack? what ex­actly do they do to cre­ate break af­ter break? when you look at any at­tack you need to do an Mot – it starts with the foun­da­tions, as a team and as an in­di­vid­ual. the mind-numb­ing shape you see in at­tack from many teams – run­ners in front of the ball-car­rier and no threat to a de­fence ex­cept trip­ping over them­selves – isn’t seen with New Zealand. they un­der­stand depth and op­tions. their first re­ceiver will of­ten play as flat as his abil­ity al­lows and re­ally threaten the de­fence. Beau­den Bar­rett, who I’ll talk more about later, is a master of this, but no one is wary of step­ping up as a dis­trib­u­tor or pivot. as a re­sult you get con­ti­nu­ity, speed and op­tions.

that last out­come – op­tions or vari­a­tion – is def­i­nitely one of their points of dif­fer­ence. yes, they have an at­tack­ing shape that will have a cou­ple of run­ners as flat op­tions, but they are not just used as bat­ter­ing rams. I’ve seen de­li­cious off­loads from Dane Coles and even a gi­ant like Brodie Re­tal­lick has picked up a lit­tle grub­ber and be­gun a raid be­hind en­emy lines. this ‘ac­tiv­ity’ they cre­ate around the ball is the big threat; it keeps a de­fence on their toes or, in many cases, on their heels.

then there is their kick­ing game. Kick to keep the ball or ap­ply pres­sure should be the maxim for any team – and the all Blacks do it so well. whether it’s a deft kick lat­er­ally to a wing or lock hov­er­ing out wide or a chip to re­cover the ball, it again means the de­fence have to cover these op­tions. as they do their of­fload­ing game.

If the lions are to sub­due this at­tack­ing threat, they need a de­fence that suf­fo­cates. the all Blacks ‘breathe’ so well as an at­tack – they give them­selves time and space by good align­ment, great de­ci­sion-mak­ing and flaw­less skill ex­e­cu­tion. I’m not say­ing they are with­out peers, but to negate them you need to shut down their space and re­duce their source of pri­mary pos­ses­sion.

the other key for the men in black is their ac­cu­racy at the break­down. they are the best na­tion at the ruck. their Su­per Rugby teams have all been out­stand­ing in this area and that means they get quick ball with min­i­mum num­bers. that’s why the lions will have to pick their bat­tles at the break­down, to leave some rucks and wait for bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties. they also shouldn’t seek quick wins by try­ing to get over the ball all the time. In­stead, they should fo­cus on less flashy out­comes by try­ing to counter-ruck and slow New Zealand ball down.

a re­duc­tion in their speed of ball will mean de­fen­sive line speed can be more cer­tain and suf­fo­ca­tion of their at­tack can be bet­ter. tac­tics and ex­e­cu­tion around this area will be im­por­tant; if the lions can slow ball down whilst stay­ing on their feet and avoid­ing penal­ties, it will be a vi­tal area of suc­cess in the over­all theatre of war.

It would be re­miss not to say how cru­cial Bar­rett is. I’ve watched him since his sevens days and he’s an amaz­ing player. he plays flat and with pace but that doesn’t re­duce his ex­e­cu­tion or range of vi­sion. he can win games with flashes of bril­liance and, with aaron Smith pro­vid­ing ball at fi­bre-optic speed, the lions will need to man­age the world Player of the year very well.

the way the all Blacks de­fend, they of­ten cre­ate at­tack. Ex­pect a cru­cial charge­down or in­ter­cep­tion from them at some point. It’s too com­mon to say it’s a lucky break – they ac­tively pur­sue those op­por­tu­ni­ties. I also fully ex­pect them to throw curve balls at the lions; a unique back-line set-up or set-piece move. It’s mouth-wa­ter­ing.

the side that man­ages to breathe deep­est in at­tack, while do­ing the op­po­site to their op­po­nent in de­fence, will go a long way to se­cur­ing the test se­ries.

Fo­cal point Beau­den Bar­rett scythes through

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