Kevin Roberts is sure that Manch­ester City and the All Blacks play their re­spec­tive codes ex­actly the same way.


NZ Rugby World - - Contents -


have been rest­ing, re­fresh­ing and re­cu­per­at­ing, my other favourite sports team, Manch­ester City, have been run­ning amok in Europe.

As I watched them take Spurs apart 4-1, I was struck by how sim­i­larly both my teams, City and the All Blacks, are play­ing.

I watched the game at The Eti­had with old school friend Brian Ash­ton, ex-coach of Bath, Ire­land, and Eng­land – and to­day a men­tor of coaches in both foot­ball and rugby, and a to­tal be­liever in the All Blacks’ way and the Pep Guardi­ola Manch­ester City way.

This ar­ti­cle will look at an anal­y­sis Brian com­pleted of the ap­proach Manch­ester City are tak­ing and how it re­lates to Steve Hansen’s All Blacks ap­proach.

First, the re­sults. We’re all fa­mil­iar with the Hansen stats – the World Cups, the Rugby Cham­pi­onships, the record­break­ing un­beaten streaks, the un­beaten tours, the points dif­fer­ences, the num­ber of tries scored, the world No 1 rank­ings.

And here are Manch­ester City’s 2017-2018 re­sults un­der the world’s num­ber one coach – Pep Guardi­ola.

As I write this, we are 24 hours away from a dif­fi­cult away fix­ture at Jür­gen Klopp’s resur­gent, dan­ger­ous Mo Salah-led Liv­er­pool.

City are un­beaten in the English Pre­mier League, the world’s tough­est league, have won the most ever con­sec­u­tive games [18], have made the best ever start to the league with 62 points out of a pos­si­ble 66 at the half­way stage of the sea­son, and are on track for a record-break­ing 107 points for the full sea­son.

They have won 20, drawn 2, lost 0, scor­ing 64 goals while con­ced­ing only 13. Guardi­ola has won a record four con­sec­u­tive Man­ager of the Month awards, three City play­ers are among the league’s top 10 goal-scor­ers and they are alive in all four com­pe­ti­tions – top­ping the league 15 points ahead of Manch­ester United and 16 points ahead of Chelsea, in the semi-fi­nal of the League Cup, in the last 16 of the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League, and in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

And how have they be­come so dom­i­nant? By play­ing the game as the All Blacks do.

A game of high tempo, with high skills and so­phis­ti­cated sim­plic­ity is the key. Both teams find the gap, ex­e­cute passes with one touch, quickly, tech­ni­cally and in­stinc­tively.

Or­derly chaos is im­posed, ev­ery­one at­tacks, ev­ery­one is dan­ger­ous, ev­ery­one scores, ev­ery­one de­fends, ev­ery­one wins the ball back once lost.

Brian Ash­ton is a huge be­liever in mind­sets – and he be­lieves both coaches share sim­i­lar mind­sets.

They are both COPS – Con­fronta­tional, Op­por­tunis­tic, Pi­o­neer­ing and Sen­sa­tional. Their ap­proaches – and play­ers – are driven by the con­stant rep­e­ti­tion of their ABC’s – Am­bi­tion, Be­lief and Courage – and their play­ers demon­strate all three, es­pe­cially when un­der pres­sure, when they are be­hind on the score­board, when time is run­ning out.

Their re­sponses are iden­ti­cal – stick to the plan, trust your team mates, press, at­tack, score, win.

The ABC’s are sup­ported by an Ac­tion set of Clar­ity, In­ten­sity and Ac­cu­racy – ev­ery­one knows their role, knows how to ex­e­cute it and rel­ishes the chal­lenge of pres­sure – which is viewed as a priv­i­lege, not a prob­lem.

I have sea­son tick­ets at The Eti­had and watch ev­ery game City play live or on TV. The same ap­plies for the All Blacks.

When you watch these games live it is strik­ing how sim­i­larly the two teams per­form. And it’s also in­ter­est­ing to see how op­pos­ing coaches re­spond to the AB/ City ap­proach – in­evitably it is a re­sponse of dam­age lim­i­ta­tion, con­fine­ment, re­stric­tion, power. Few have tried to out-skill/out-pace/out-at­tack ei­ther team – but City awaits Paris St-Ger­main, Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the All Blacks saw Scot­land give it a go and maybe the Wal­la­bies will re­gain the Cam­pese/Ho­ran/Lit­tle flair in 2018.

Un­til then we’ll just have to keep at­tack­ing against the power games of Ed­die Jones and Jose Mour­inho – and keep the faith.

The com­mon per­for­mance threads be­tween the All Blacks and City were sum­marised by Brian as:

■ Elec­tri­fy­ing ac­cu­racy un­der pres­sure

■ A short, sim­ple pass­ing/un­load­ing game

■ In­tel­li­gent, chal­leng­ing run­ning

■ Speedy re­gain­ing of pos­ses­sion

■ Cre­at­ing, iden­ti­fy­ing, at­tack­ing space

■ Play­ing with depth and width

■ Cre­ative phys­i­cal­ity

■ Cre­at­ing over­loads Both teams play on the edge, with no fear. They play with eyes wide open, with heads up and can score from any­where.

If you get the chance to watch Manch­ester City, take it. It’s what the All Blacks would look like if they were a foot­ball team.

| | FEB­RU­ARY/MARCH 2018 BROTH­ERS FROM AN­OTHER MOTHER Manch­ester City and the All Blacks ap­proach their re­spec­tive codes the same way.

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