ABs stick­ing to script choos­ing McKen­zie

The New Zealand Herald - - Supersport - Liam Napier

In one se­lec­tion, that of Damian McKen­zie at full­back, the ex­pected clash of styles at Twick­en­ham will play out.

This week­end, in the­ory, you have the world's best at­tack­ing team – and Eng­land at­tempt­ing to squeeze the life out of them.

McKen­zie's se­cond start of the year at full­back sig­nals the All Blacks won't de­vi­ate from their script just be­cause Eng­land present a vastly dif­fer­ent pic­ture from any­thing they've faced this year.

They won't be bul­lied into a game of tic-tac-toe.

McKen­zie brings risk in the form of hav­ing a crack when it is not al­ways on; re­ward in re­liev­ing pres­sure on Beau­den Bar­rett, of­fer­ing an­other kick­ing op­tion and usu­ally be­ing brave and as­sured un­der the high ball.

The diminu­tive Chiefs’ play­maker must, how­ever, pick the right mo­ments to have a go.

Get his tim­ing wrong on one of those un­pre­dictable cross-field runs which can put pres­sure on oth­ers and ten­sion will rise.

"Every­body in our team has a clear li­cence to play what's in-front of them," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. "That's how I got brought up play­ing. The op­po­si­tion tells you what you can and can't do.

"Damian doesn't miss too many op­por­tu­ni­ties so I'm as­sum­ing we'll see it at some point."

McKen­zie will get plenty of chances to launch coun­ters, with the All Blacks brac­ing for aerial bom­bard­ment.

Should Eng­land adopt sim­i­lar tac­tics from the Spring­boks last week­end, it will again be a kick­ing, maul­ing, de­fence-based ap­proach.

"A lot of peo­ple can get caught up and think they kick it all the time and it's pretty nega­tive rugby but they don't give you many op­por­tu­ni­ties to do things be­cause of the way they play.

"They pride them­selves on that and they hang in there."

The Boks, with hooker Mal­colm Marx twice guilty of throw­ing long on Eng­land's line, blew at least three tryscor­ing chances.

Show enough pa­tience, and the All Blacks are un­likely to be so waste­ful.

"If we don't take our op­por­tu­ni­ties they'll have the abil­ity to bite us too. It's go­ing to be a real chal­lenge and a battle men­tally.

"They may come out and trick us and play ex­pan­sive, run­ning rugby, but I don't think so."

Richie Mo'unga's emer­gence has played a ma­jor role in al­ter­ing plans with McKen­zie this year.

While now con­sid­ered third in line at No 10, as long as Ben Smith is pre­ferred on the wing McKen­zie ap­pears first-choice full­back.

"Do we want Damian to con­tinue play­ing first five-eighth? Yep, be­cause it gives him the abil­ity to play what we want as a two driv­ing game. Those skills are still go­ing to be needed if he plays full­back."

The All Blacks be­lieve that two play­mak­ers – three, pos­si­bly, if Mo'unga com­bines with Bar­rett and McKen­zie – makes them much more dif­fi­cult to close down.

The more free­dom they give Bar­rett to spark his nat­u­ral game, the more dan­ger­ous the All Blacks be­come.

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