We must throw the first punch or ex­pect to be out for the count

Jones knows that a fast start is cru­cial if Eng­land are to see off All Blacks in semi-fi­nal col­li­sion

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Rugby - DANNY CARE ENG­LAND SCRUM-HALF

Ever since Ed­die Jones has come in, he has used New Zealand as Eng­land’s ref­er­ence point for where he wants to take the team. That is not about copy­ing the All Blacks – he has al­ways wanted Eng­land to be Eng­land – but know­ing what their stan­dards are and look­ing to sur­pass them.

Ul­ti­mately, they are the No1 team in the world. What­ever the rank­ings say, they have been the best team on the planet for the past eight years; prob­a­bly longer. If the goal is to over­take them, then you have to know what they are do­ing. All roads go through them if you want to be world cham­pi­ons.

A fast start will be cru­cial. Ed­die talks about the hit-first men­tal­ity. Throw­ing the first punch, not tak­ing a back­ward step, be­ing the ag­gres­sor, tak­ing the game to New Zealand, rather than sit­ting back and let­ting them play.

One clip Ed­die has shown the squad many times is from the 2015 World Cup fi­nal. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the open­ing kick-off, Aaron Smith puts up a box-kick. Is­rael Fo­lau takes the high ball but gets smashed by Kieran Read. That one tackle sets the tone for the whole game, which is what Ed­die means by the hit-first men­tal­ity. Early on, I would ex­pect Ben Youngs to put the ball on the money, a mas­sive chase from ev­ery­one and then let the catcher know they are go­ing to be in for a tough day.

If you start cold then New Zealand can just take the game away from you. By the time Smith scored his sec­ond try against Ire­land, it was game over. If there is one word that sums up New Zealand, it is in­ten­sity. Ev­ery­thing they do is quick, pow­er­ful and di­rect. The pres­sure they put on you is so im­mense that you do make more mis­takes. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery time you make an er­ror, they cap­i­talise. They are so ruth­less.

When you look back to the last time Eng­land beat New Zealand in 2012, we just took it to them from the very first whis­tle. Eng­land will also have the dif­fer­ence-maker from that day with Manu Tuilagi in the team. You would hope that will be in the back of the minds of a few New Zealand play­ers, which might cre­ate space for oth­ers.

So far, New Zealand have been the best team in the tour­na­ment by quite a mar­gin. Eng­land will need a 9/10 or 10/10 to win this game. Any­thing short of that and New Zealand will be in the fi­nal.

Against Aus­tralia, I thought Eng­land’s per­for­mance was 8.5/10. I do not think it needed to be any higher because Aus­tralia just shot them­selves in the foot over and over again. I can­not be­lieve Michael Cheika thought that game plan was go­ing to beat Eng­land. Whether it was naivety or ar­ro­gance, I am not sure, but by keep­ing the ball in­side their own 22, they were play­ing into Eng­land’s hands.

When Aus­tralia did get into Eng­land’s half, they looked very threat­en­ing. In those sit­u­a­tions, Eng­land’s com­po­sure was re­ally im­pres­sive. There are al­ways spells in matches where mo­men­tum goes away from you. The key thing is recog­nis­ing when those pe­ri­ods are oc­cur­ring, tak­ing your medicine if nec­es­sary and fo­cus­ing on mak­ing smart de­ci­sions. There was a point when Aus­tralia were on the at­tack and Henry Slade slowed the ball down for a cou­ple of sec­onds. He con­ceded a penalty but saved a po­ten­tial try. It was a smart de­ci­sion un­der pres­sure.

In at­tack, Eng­land’s game was sharp and their use of mul­ti­ple phys­i­cal run­ners was ex­cel­lent. You saw that for Kyle Sinck­ler’s try. Eng­land had been at­tack­ing in wave af­ter wave. Then you had Kyle, Billy Vu­nipola and Maro Itoje all run­ning hard, short lines, which forced the Aus­tralia de­fend­ers to make last-sec­ond de­ci­sions. Owen [Far­rell] then hit a bril­liant ball to Kyle, who prob­a­bly runs those short lines bet­ter than any­one. Yet as much as Kyle and Owen will get the ku­dos, that try would not be scored with­out Maro and Billy run­ning hard, gen­uine lines.

Over­all, it was a bril­liant per­for­mance, but I still do not think you have seen the best of Eng­land, sim­ply because of the level of op­po­si­tion. Aus­tralia were a sig­nif­i­cant step up from the pool stages, but New Zealand are sev­eral lev­els above that. I have no doubt that Eng­land are ca­pa­ble of reach­ing those heights. They will have to be in­cred­i­bly phys­i­cal and smart, but most of all they need to hit first.

Dif­fer­ence: Manu Tuilagi in Eng­land’s 2012 vic­tory against New Zealand

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