By Andy Rowe
The All Blacks are unbeaten in 2013 but they are not unbeatable. This is not a flawless side and has areas which can be exploited if the opposition is up to it.
I believe England could be up for it. But they will have to play the game of their lives as this test is the one the world champions have been waiting for since 2012. If England do play the game of their lives, here are five ways they can overcome New Zealand.
England must suck the All Blacks into a slow and unattractive style of rugby.
England showed how they can dictate the style of play with their win over Australia. They must do this again. Don’t be fooled into playing running, attacking rugby against New Zealand. South Africa showed in Johannesburg during the Rugby Championship that, while expansive rugby is a good watch, it’s not the way you perform against the All Blacks. France showed last weekend, especially during the first half, that if you use pressure and physicality you can stay close to New Zealand on the scoreboard.
The All Blacks love to play; they will be frustrated and bored into mistakes if you disrupt their flow in attack.
Commit numbers to the breakdown. France showed in Paris that if you slow down the All Blacks at the breakdown and then come off the line quickly in defence, you can frustrate their attack. Much of New Zealand’s attack is built around front-foot ball with their backs running onto the ball from great depth. Stop them getting over the advantage line and smother them.
Attack their outside backs where New Zealand’s combinations are new. Centre Ben Smith is an impressive player and so is wing Charles Puitau, however these two have played together very little. Smith has played most of this season on the wing for the All Blacks, while he played fullback in Super Rugby. They’re untested as a combination. In recent years this has been one of New Zealand’s strengths but with Conrad Smith on a sabbatical, they’re using the autumn internationals to build depth.
New Zealand’s scrum is possibly the weakest area of their game. It’s certainly not as bad as Australia’s, but it was definitely the third best in the Rugby Championship. Richie McCaw’s return may have added some grunt, however without the ballast of Brad Thorn in the pack anymore the New Zealand srum hasn’t got the same power it used to.
Everything must go England’s way. Against Australia there were two controversial calls that led to the home side scoring tries at Twickenham. Against the All Blacks last year there was an intercept to Manu Tuilaga that helped blow the scoreboard out. Whether it’s fifty/fifty refereeing decisions, an opportunistic bounce of the ball or a stroke of luck, England needs two or three moments in the game that lead to five-pointers. England must take these opportunities when they present themselves.