Eng­land’s kick­ing game holds the key

My rogue thought would be to give May free rein to hunt down Mo’unga Eng­land have a free shot to rat­tle the All Blacks and in­vite a Bar­rett mis­take

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup -

left touch­line. It is just as hard for the scrum-half, who has to swing the foot around to the open side of the break­down much closer to the de­fend­ers, with the ball in full sight the whole time.

Aaron Smith has wob­bled when Eng­land have played the All Blacks in pre­vi­ous years. Smith is a beau­ti­ful rugby player, but I would lay a hefty bet now that Eng­land will charge down one of his kicks to­day, es­pe­cially with big men like Maro Itoje and Court­ney Lawes around the fringes.

If they are to win, Eng­land need to get into New Zealand and mess with their sup­ply lines. They need to spread panic in the ranks, and get the All Blacks scrab­bling to main­tain the ball. If they pass back to Richie Mo’unga, then Eng­land need to know that he has an is­sue – nei­ther of his cen­tres kick. They will want to force an­other pass to Beau­den Bar­rett. But two passes in your own 22, even by a team as good as New Zealand, should be an open in­vi­ta­tion for car­nage.

How do Eng­land make that hap­pen? They need to be cre­ative and fash­ion a one-man mis­sion for their fastest player. Most teams use the scrum-half and, while Ben Youngs used to be a wizard at this, his pace is not what it was.

My rogue thought for Eng­land would be to give Jonny May free rein to hunt down Mo’unga from the first ruck at ev­ery restart or af­ter ev­ery New Zealand de­fen­sive set-piece. Eng­land would then need to shift out de­fen­sively: Manu Tuilagi to wing; Owen Far­rell to 13; Ge­orge Ford to 12.

The think­ing be­hind this is sim­ple – do not waste your speed on re­turn­ing a bad kick that may not hap­pen. Shut off the good clear­ance kicks at source and try to make all of the clear­ance kicks bad. To beat the All Blacks, Eng­land need to change the pic­ture.

Once Eng­land get into at­tack­ing ar­eas, the cross-kick can be their friend. The two match-ups are An­thony Wat­son v Sevu Reece and May v Ge­orge Bridge. The clear and ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple in terms of a mis­match in height and ae­rial play is the for­mer. Reece is an ab­so­lute mar­vel with the ball in hand and with time and space, but what he can­not do is grow a foot in height.

Wat­son is world class at at­tack­ing the flat cross-kick. These are not high hang-time kicks, these are more the low-fly­ing type, the fizzed, clas­sic three-iron cross­kick. There is less of an ad­van­tage for May against Bridge be­cause the All Black is ex­cel­lent in the air.

Even so, Eng­land should use the cross­field kick early on be­cause they need to have both wings, and Beau­den Bar­rett, wor­ried about the cross-kick.

Eng­land need to sep­a­rate the New Zealand full-back from stand­ing be­hind the mid­field and con­trol­ling his play­ers. in the same way that Smith con­trols his play­ers from scrum-half around the ruck. Eng­land need to re­move some comms from their sys­tem and spread out the All Black de­fence.

Once that hap­pens, the big English run­ners can find gaps and el­bows, not shoul­ders and hard hits. Put dis­tance be­tween Bar­rett and his wingers and when Eng­land go to their clas­sic play­book – the dou­ble pull-back ball, be­hind Billy Vu­nipola and Tuilagi from the line-out or be­hind Henry Slade and Tuilagi from scrums – then they have the chance of see­ing a dis­con­nect be­tween the All Black mid­field and the wings.

This will al­low the fliers of Wat­son-daly-may from the right-hand side and May-da­ly­wat­son from the left-hand side to sweep round and be the ballplay­ers and pick off a dis­jointed de­fen­sive sys­tem.

The kick that re­quires to­tal con­cen­tra­tion from Eng­land’s per­spec­tive is the box­kick­ing from Youngs. This will most likely take two forms – un­der con­trol from a restart , or from a line-out in our own third.

The ball will be ac­cu­rately trans­ferred to the hind­most foot of the for­wards’ cater­pil­lar and the ball will ide­ally have a hang time of be­tween three and four sec­onds, cov­er­ing a dis­tance of about 30 me­tres. The aim is to have the chaser ei­ther com­pete or tackle the catcher im­me­di­ately on land­ing. It has to be ac­cu­rate, es­pe­cially when kick­ing to an or­gan­ised All Blacks de­fence.

The dif­fi­cul­ties oc­cur when Eng­land have to scram­ble tackle, back into their own 22 or close to their goal line, breath­ing out of holes they did not know they had, with key play­ers trapped at the bot­tom of a ruck, for­wards in the mid­field, sec­ond rows on the wing.

When that hap­pens, it is cru­cial that Eng­land’s No 9s breathe calmly and slow down the ro­ta­tion of the world. Then they must think clearly. The ball must go into

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