Go back to school to find the se­cret of All Blacks’ ge­nius

In­grained cul­ture of the game and the free­dom and fun of touch rugby in ev­ery PE class pro­duce a skill-set that does not come nat­u­rally to a na­tion of foot­ball lovers

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup -

In New Zealand, so I am told, you grow up with a rugby ball in your hands. If you are walk­ing down the street or hang­ing around out­side a bus sta­tion, you are throw­ing passes to your mates. When kids are in PE at school, it is the same story. They play touch rugby.

In Eng­land, the op­por­tu­nity to have fun is framed around foot­ball. I get that. It is our cul­ture. Even at Premiershi­p clubs, trust me, coaches will at­tempt to lighten the mood at train­ing ev­ery now and then by bring­ing out a foot­ball. And ev­ery­one loves it.

That means there is a dif­fer­ent feel to those early years of learn­ing rugby in each coun­try. With touch rugby, you de­velop spa­tial aware­ness, your sense of depth per­cep­tion, when it is right to run through the line or when you need to play a pass ear­lier. Those traits seem to be nat­u­rally cre­ated in New Zealand. The rea­son I say all of this is be­cause against Ire­land, the All Blacks gave one of the most bal­anced per­for­mances I have ever seen. It was a joy to watch.

The way they flipped from struc­tured rugby to un­struc­tured rugby was awe­some. And they prob­a­bly will not be en­tirely happy be­cause they could per­haps have been more clin­i­cal at the end.

All 15 play­ers on the field seemed to have an un­der­stand­ing about what they were try­ing to achieve in any mo­ment. If the ball was slow, they fell back on their struc­tures to gen­er­ate mo­men­tum.

Within their sys­tem, the in­di­vid­ual skills could shine. Richie Mo’unga, Beau­den Bar­rett and Sevu Reece could all show­case their tal­ents, but as part of the col­lec­tive. When Brodie Re­tal­lick takes the ball from Mo’unga and puts Kieran Read through a hole in mid­field, that is him – a lock – stand­ing square, com­mit­ting a de­fender and play­ing the pass.

Read will have picked a great line. He al­ways does. Those are the in­di­vid­ual skills that New Zealand are so good at ex­e­cut­ing. The key is that there are al­ways de­ci­sions to make within their struc­ture. They are not play­ing by num­bers. In un­struc­tured rugby, you see New Zealand come alive and use their point of dif­fer­ence. They work off the ball-player and show that feel they have with each other.

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