Former All Black Andrew Mehrtens believes that England should adopt a simple game plan if they are to prevent New Zealand from reaching a third successive World Cup final.
In his column for The Times, Mehrtens writes that should England hope to overcome the All Blacks in Saturday’s semi-final in Yokohama, they will need to avoid an expansive game plan and instead be physically dominant and tactically efficient.
‘There’s no rocket science behind this mission,’ said the 70-Test flyhalf. ‘It doesn’t matter how the points come. Don’t get sucked into playing better rugby, play more effective rugby.
‘How do you do that? You slow them down at the tackle … you build yourself up for a massive defensive effort to come up fast and smack them in multiple tackles and not let them go forward.
‘The key to beating the All Blacks is to counter their strengths. You don’t want to be playing their game. You don’t want to be letting the All Blacks dictate the tempo.’
Mehrtens continues by saying that Eddie Jones’ men will have to determine the pace at the breakdown in order to disrupt the All Blacks’ game plan.
‘What are England’s comparative strengths? You want to slow up the game. You want to play set piece to set piece. That’s what the All Blacks don’t like.
‘Beat them up and smother them. While it may get called “smothering”, no one cares if it works … this is not about providing a spectacle. It is about getting results.’
England’s tactical kicking game should also be accurate says Mehrtens, who advised that their halfbacks avoid kicking too much possession away.
‘Ben Youngs shouldn’t be box-kicking so much because that brings the danger of giving possession back again. Yes, kick on Beauden Barrett; England can pressurise him because if you put the high ball up on him and you get there at the same time, even if he wins the ball, you know he’s not still there in the back line for the next phase.’
‘The defensive line can’t really hold back, so that kick in behind the No 12 and the No 13, with Elliot Daly and Jonny May running on to it, should be effective.’
England and New Zealand will clash at a World Cup for the first time in two decades when they meet on Saturday, with the All Blacks having prevailed 30-16 during the pool stages in 1999.
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