New Zealand are a bloody good team but no more than that... England must go for the jugular if they are to destroy All Black myth

By Sir Clive Woodward

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‘The expectation that comes with putting on the black shirt is too much for some people. They don’t survive it. The jersey is what it is because of the men who wear it. It is like a brotherhood.’'

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen at Thursday’s team announcement

 

New Zealand’s identity has become defined by its rugby team. They are worshipped at home as deities, achieving a cult status in world sport.

England must not buy into that myth. The All Blacks are a bloody good rugby team but they are no more than that. Do not spend hours agonising over their talents, focusing on their heritage, or worrying about their  86 per cent win rate over the last decade.

Be afraid: The All Blacks come with a fearsome reputation as they prepare to face England at Twickenham

Be afraid: The All Blacks come with a fearsome reputation as they prepare to face England at Twickenham

Be afraid: The All Blacks come with a fearsome reputation as they prepare to face England at Twickenham

I did a number of things as England coach to combat their mythical status. To start with, I stopped the players from referring to them as All Blacks and instead only as New Zealand. When we analysed their game we took away the colour of the jersey. If you turn them into dots and data on the screen then all that mystique and aura disappears.

They are the best team in the world because they have the best coach in Steve Hansen and an outstanding generation of talent, a cocktail that breeds success.

The New Zealand RFU understand the strength of their union is driven by their national team’s success. The clubs understand this as well — instead of getting bogged down in club v country rows there is great pride in having internationals in your squad.

The coaching system in New Zealand focuses on skill development from a young age, which is why the senior team perform with almost flawless execution. The All Blacks value humility — senior players tidy the changing room at the end of the game — they are the fittest side in rugby and they take the mental approach to the game very seriously. Each player has a personal trigger on the field to remind themselves to think correctly under pressure — Richie McCaw stamps his feet and Kieran Read stares at the furthest stand in the stadium.

It is a wonderful country to tour because of its All Black obsession and two memories come to mind from England’s 2003 tour. The first was at passport control — before we had even entered the country! The officer clearly knew who I was, but he spent an age studying my documents and, when he finally let me through, all he said was: ‘You’ve got absolutely no chance, mate.’

Later on in the tour, I was working in my hotel room in Wellington and ordered some room service. The lady who brought it was very polite, but as she got to the door she turned to me with a smile and said: ‘It was really nice to meet you, Mr Woodward, but you’ve got absolutely no chance on Saturday.’

When we did beat them the press wrote we had the ‘ugliest forward pack ever’ and famously branded us ‘white orcs on steroids’. It was a massive compliment but the point is that the entire nation rallies behind that team. One thing I tried to convey as England coach is that the All Blacks do not have a  franchise in having pride in their shirt. There is a huge history in English rugby we can be proud of.

Victorious: Clive Woodward was in charge for England's win over New Zealand in Wellington 10 years ago

Victorious: Clive Woodward was in charge for England's win over New Zealand in Wellington 10 years ago

Victorious: Clive Woodward was in charge for England's win over New Zealand in Wellington 10 years ago

Victorious: Clive Woodward was in charge for England's win over New Zealand in Wellington 10 years ago

In 1997, we faced them at Twickenham and drew 26-26 in one of the fastest games I have seen. The night before I went through the one-on-one match-ups with the squad for the first time and that was about demystifying them too, to show it was man versus man.

New Zealand understand the  significance of the gain line more than any other team so that is where you have to take them on. You cannot beat them without  having the mindset of trying to score five tries so you build a  blueprint around that target.

Back in 1997 I told fly-half Paul Grayson that if he didn’t play flat enough I would take him off and to his credit he didn’t bottle it.

The speed of ball from scrum-half Kyran Bracken was amazing, not just out the back of the ruck, but from the set-piece, and Grayson stood so flat he was almost in front of him.

I told the team to play a 40-minute match at a pace the All Blacks could not handle. At half-time some of them were vomiting in the changing room with exhaustion but we had scored three tries and laid down a marker.

Raring to go: England train ahead of their autumn international against New Zealand at Twickenham

Raring to go: England train ahead of their autumn international against New Zealand at Twickenham

Raring to go: England train ahead of their autumn international against New Zealand at Twickenham
Raring to go: England train ahead of their autumn international against New Zealand at Twickenham

Practice makes perfect: Joe Marler (left) and Billy Twelvetrees (right) take part in the final training session

The game has moved on but the principles haven’t — pace, space, execution. Just like it was in 1997, today the gain line is the key  battleground and it starts with  how flat the first receiver plays.  England’s first receiver — be it  fly-half Owen Farrell off first-phase ball or a forward — must stand flat on the gain line and wherever  possible receive the ball moving forward. You have to play in their faces and chance your arm a bit, because if you stand back they will smash you back further.

I will be astonished if New  Zealand fail to score three or four tries. England must defend for their lives but realise it is not the end of the world if you concede.

The mindset has to be: can we outscore them?

If you attack at every opportunity and keep possession of the ball, then not even the All Blacks can score.

 


The comments below have been moderated in advance.

England can defeat the all-blacks by adopting spoiling tactics, and stopping them from playing rugby. England's football team can defeat Brazil by adopting spoiling tactics, and stopping them from playing football. These are the same tactics that a non-league side would adopt if drawn against a premiership side in the FA cup.

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England will be pumped. No way will the All Blacks allow themselves to be beaten two years in a row. That said compared to England's the other home nations combined record against New Zealand is pathetic. So they can keep schtum

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England can defeat the all-blacks by adopting spoiling tactics, and stopping them from playing rugby. England's football team can defeat Brazil by adopting spoiling tactics, and stopping them from playing football. These are the same tactics that a non-league side would adopt if drawn against a premiership side in the FA cup.

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Remember last time we played the ABs..?? We won! A year on, lets win again! BELIEVE!

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The centre's need to show more in this game both Tomkins and Twelvetrees need to get over the gain line a lot more, and the back three will be tested massively by the tactical kicking of NZ. My heart says England but my brain says NZ by 12-15 points

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N.Z. v S.A., 2013, only unbeaten thanks to an incompetent ref.

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SCW still playing mind games....on himself. The AB's have the best winning percentage of all teams in all sports in the world. They are wound up for this game anyway. Do you really want to tick them off even more?

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b

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I don't think we have a hope today, this must be one of the worst England set up`s for years, the front row is weak and that will be shown up today, we have no decent centres and that will also be exploited big time today and this has been the case for two or there years now and the coaching staff have done nothing about it but when the team are playing its difficult to see what the style of play or what sort of game plan the coach is looking for, are we trying to play ten man Rugby, or a fifteen man game, a wide game or a narrow game there just doesn`t appear to be any continuity from game to game it just looks like its all a bit add hock and made up on the day. Unless things change I think that we wont even get out of our group in the home RWC and can you imagine having to swallow that.

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I really want england to win.... but they are too good

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