England must not be conned by All Black rope-a-dope tactics
23:35 GMT, 30 November 2012
There are a lot of myths about the way the All Blacks play. People have this perception they’re an all-singing, all-dancing team who always have the ball and are always attacking, always expansive.
The truth is different. /11/30/article-2241211-16492714000005DC-110_634x422.jpg” width=”634″ height=”422″ alt=”Dan stays in the picture: The All Blacks most potent weapon, Dan Carter, checks out the news in Sportsmail, including pictures of his day out in London” class=”blkBorder” />
Dan stays in the picture: The All Blacks most potent weapon, Dan Carter, checks out the news in Sportsmail, including pictures of his day out in London
Steve Hansen’s side conceded the second-highest number of penalties and, when it came to time-in-possession stats, they were third of the four teams. The message is clear; it’s not about how much ball they have, it’s about what they do with it.
But there were several areas where the All Blacks were well ahead of the rest – passes completed, number of off-loads, defenders beaten, clean breaks, metres gained and tackle completion, highlighting their clinical work.
For a long time, New Zealand have been the finest counter-attacking side in the world. When they win a turnover, it’s as if they flick a mental switch. They all go up a gear, they raise their intensity levels. More often than not, they will score.
What the All Blacks do well is control and vary their pace. A lot of other nations play at the same high intensity, but they are one-paced, they lack that variety. New Zealand are able to operate and succeed with less possession. Their tackle-completion rates are really good, then when they get the ball, they immediately go up three gears.
Masters of the art: New Zealand are the best counter-attacking side in the world
Last weekend, Manu Tuilagi intercepted the ball and broke upfield against South Africa, but England were unable to take the scoring chance. In the same circumstances, the All Blacks would have flicked that switch and scored a try. The initial reaction is crucial. As soon as they see a turnover, the players all quickly get into position and flood through on the right support lines. In contrast, some of the England players might have seen Chris Ashton receive the ball from Tuilagi and subconsciously thought ‘he’s quick’ so they just watched him run.
New Zealand always ensure that as many players as possible work themselves into attacking positions. They would have had someone up in close support of a player in Ashton’s position, ready to take an off-load when he ran hard at the last defender.
Opta stats reveal that, of all the All Blacks tries since the World Cup, 44 per cent start when they regain possession in their own half. With England, that figure drops to about 20 per cent. New Zealand are always alert to potential try-scoring opportunities, even from deep.
It is like rope-a-dope – their ability to soak up pressure and pounce when chances come along. Their belief that they will always find a way to win borders on arrogance.
They will look at the opposition and
think, ‘Whatever you do, we will surpass you’, which is the mindset we
had with England in the run-up to the 2003 World Cup. The All Blacks
believe they are bullet proof.
Another advantage they have over England and other sides is an innate willingness to take risks. They have so many supreme physical specimens who can dominate collisions, but they also have the mind-set to play positively – always looking to offload.
In England, if you throw an offload that ‘wasn’t on’, it can lead to heavy criticism and that can make players go into their shells. Perhaps we have to change our national psyche when it comes to risk-taking.
England captain Chris Robshaw has been slated for his decision to go for goal with a late penalty last weekend, but he made the right call. Stats show that from 40 attacking line-outs within 10 metres of the opposition line since the start of 2010, England have scored just four times.
Under pressure: Robshaw will come in for intense scrutiny on Saturday
If time is almost up, the defending side can keep infringing, knowing that the attacking team need more than a penalty to win the game. They basically have a licence to cheat.
My hope is that Robshaw can block out all the criticism the next time that he faces a similar scenario, but my fear is that all the stick he’s had will affect him.
On this occasion, there are no areas where England have a clear advantage. Rugby is a strange game, so all hope is not lost, but I think the All Blacks will win, say 29-13.