Styles contrast whets appetites
ENGLAND SOLIDITY V ALL BLACKS’ VERSATILITY
“Styles make fights” is usually the talk of boxing promoters but it could prove true of England’s long-awaited clash against world champions New Zealand at Twickenham today.
Coach Eddie Jones has often insisted that trying to play the All Blacks at their own running from deep, passing game is a recipe for defeat, with the Australian championing the traditional Red Rose strengths of a powerful forward pack and solid set-piece.
And All Blacks coach Steve Hansen accepted there was more than one way to win a game.
“Southern hemisphere rugby – there’s a lot of talk about Super Rugby, it’s very free-flowing with a lot of tries scored, but in this part of the world, maybe because the environment is different, the weather is different, there is a necessity to play a tighter game,” said Hansen.
Six years ago, after leading 12-0 at the break courtesy of four Owen Farrell penalties, England ran in three second-half tries through Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi in a 38-21 triumph.
Flyhalf Farrell has found himself in the spotlight after escaping any action for a seemingly illegal shoulder charge in the closing stages of an unconvincing 12-11 win over South Africa at Twickenham last weekend.
Ashton, 31, who came off the bench against the Springboks, has scored 19 tries in a 40-cap England career interrupted by suspensions and spending a season with French giants Toulon.
“That try-scoring skill is not coached,” said Jones.
“Guys like that, the only thing you can do is stuff them up by coaching them.”
Free rein is something that comes naturally to an All Blacks side where fullback Damian McKenzie will act as a “second playmaker” to star flyhalf Beauden Barrett in Hansen’s first-choice team.
For all their ball-playing skill, few New Zealand sides have lacked physical presence and a team captained by No 8 Kieran Read will look to make an impact up front.
It all makes for an intriguing clash fewer than 12 months out from the 2019 World Cup in Japan – one made all the more exciting by the fact it is four years since England last played New Zealand.
“The old adage of less is more is probably a good thing,” said Hansen. “Would we be so excited about playing England if we were playing twice a year, every year? – maybe not.
“But we haven’t played them in four years and everyone is on the edge of their seat.” – AFP