Cul­ture clash as Eng­land face All Blacks

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Sport -

“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 on Sat­ur­day.

Eng­land 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-flow- ing with a lot of tries, 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,” Hansen said.

The ex­pe­ri­enced Jones also knows the virtues of adapt­abil­ity. It was a trait Eng­land, then coached by Stu­art Lan­caster, showed in the last of just their seven wins over the All Blacks six years ago when, lead­ing 12-0 at the break cour­tesy of four Owen Far­rell penal­ties, they ran in three sec­ond-half tries through Brad Bar­ritt, Chris Ash­ton and Manu Tuilagi in a 38-21 tri­umph.

Dash­ing wing Ash­ton is now set to make his first Test start in four years, but the in­jury-prone Tuilagi’s long wait for an Eng­land re­call has been de­layed by a groin prob­lem.

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. But for­mer Wal­laby and Ja­pan boss Jones in­sisted Far­rell re­quired the kind of pro­tec­tion ref­er­ees rou­tinely af­forded by match of­fi­cials to Ire­land No 10 Jonathan Sex­ton.

“If he was Sex­ton then we’d be able to com­plain about him, but be­cause he’s Owen Far­rell he’s al­lowed to be hit late,” Jones said.

“He’s a tough rooster, a war­rior. He puts his body on the line, he doesn’t play in a din­ner suit.”

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 noth­ing coached,” Jones said.

“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 a first-choice team fea­tur­ing Sonny Bill Wil­liams and Jack Good­hue in mid­field.

“We think against sides that play a lit­tle dif­fer­ently than we do, hav­ing two play­mak­ers makes it a lot harder for them to shut us down,” said Hansen, whose side, fresh from vic­to­ries over Aus­tralia and Ja­pan, find them­selves in their fa­mil­iar role of favourites.

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,” Hansen said. “Would we be so ex­cited about play­ing Eng­land if we were play­ing twice a year?

“We haven’t played them in four years and ev­ery­one is on the edge of their seat.”

STEVE HANSEN

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