England Must Hope All Blacks Have an off Day; UTTLEY ON RUGBY

The Journal (Newcastle, England), November 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

England Must Hope All Blacks Have an off Day; UTTLEY ON RUGBY


Byline: with Roger Uttley

WE KEEP talking about New Zealand being the standard bearers of total rugby once they get their offloading game going, and that is the challenge facing England on Saturday.

I am off down to Twickenham very much looking forward to seeing how Stuart Lancaster's side shape up against the world champions, who were convincing winners over the USA in Chicago last weekend.

England competed well against the All Blacks during their summer tour, and my hope is that they can at least match and hopefully surpass them in terms of physicality.

You have got to get on the front foot against these guys and keep the ball alive, because if you give them breakdown opportunities that is when the likes of Richie McCaw and Kieran Read start to slow things down.

England need to show wit and width over 80 minutes, which is easier said than done against a side as good as New Zealand.

The fact they have had eight games since that summer series is signifi-cant when you consider England have had none.

All England supporters can hope for is that the All Blacks might be a little bit jaded at the end of a long southern-hemisphere season.

If one or two guys are beginning to run out of gas that might just take the edge off their game, although the loss of Joe Launchbury through injury is a big miss for the English pack. It will be interesting to see which way Lancaster goes in his selection, particularly in the back-row.

Chris Robshaw is going to have to play out of his skin, and in the centres they have to work out how to counter the threat of a centre of the quality of Conrad Smith.

Brad Barritt has proven his fitness for Saracens and been playing well for them, as has Luther Burrell at Northampton, and the selection on the wings will also be interesting.

England have got to get the ball to them early, and they won't do that if they are just running at bodies. They have got to show the kind of guile demonstrated by New Zealand.

Julian Savea on the wing for the All Blacks is just a sensational player, and even when he is put down he invariably manages to keep the ball alive.

That is what kills sides playing against New Zealand, their ability to overturn the ball at the breakdown and swift counter-attacking are what England have to be able to combat.

The potential England debut of Bath wing Semesa Rokoduguni has been one talking point during the build-up - understandably so, when you consider what a huge talent he is. He combines physicality with skill, and his Fijian origins are obvious. England need his cutting-edge potential to finish teams off, and I would be very happy if he was given a run-out this weekend.

In terms of the global game it was good to see America hosting the All Blacks last weekend, even if their TV commentary was a little bit different from what we are used to.

They are growing the game and I thought they were competitive for the first quarter or so, but once New Zealand got into their stride you could see the difference in class. …

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