Former assistant coach Wayne Smith has revealed in detail the tactical error he believes led to the All Blacks’ shock World Cup elimination.
New Zealand capitulated in the semi-finals of this year’s World Cup, where they slumped to a 19-7 defeat by eventual runners-up England.
The 62-year-old Smith, who coached the All Blacks in 2000 and also enjoyed two stints as assistant coach, says one of New Zealand’s deliberate tactical ploys is what led to their downfall against England.
‘Whilst we played outstandingly against Ireland in the quarter-final, the tactical plan that day worked because those outside backs from Ireland rushed up with out-to-in defence all the way to Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield,’ he told Devlin.
‘This gave the All Blacks that relief zone out wide through cross-field kicks or passing over the top, but unfortunately the English watched that game too and they had a defensive plan that countered that attacking strategy. Therein lay the issues, I think.
‘Essentially from what I understand – I’m not close to the environment anymore – and through reading and looking at stuff, that plan of having two All Black forwards standing up flat and then passing way behind them to the 10 who then played wide, was put together for teams like Ireland rushing up, and gave them the chance to outflank them.
‘Those two forwards are the players you generally rely on to keep the ball alive in the tackle. They would take the offload or make the cleanout to give you the lightning-quick ball you are after.’
Smith also highlighted the fact that the All Blacks had to rely on slow possession.
‘Because they were 10 metres ahead of the attack they were late arriving to all those breakdowns. It gave us slow ball and didn’t really give us a chance to keep the ball alive. It probably was the reason we lost so convincingly.
‘John Mitchell [England assistant coach] had their defence numbering up from the outside, so rather than rolling the dice and everyone rushing in to make the tackles, generally – although not all the time – they had that outside man marked.
‘It took away the cross-field kick and our ability to pass over the top, which put us in trouble. We didn’t have any solutions to it and kept getting smacked behind the lines.’
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