England must keep their discipline in heat of World Cup knockout stages

first_imgShare on WhatsApp Pinterest Share on Facebook Rugby World Cup 2019 Facebook Read more Japan show world their defiance and skill in face of typhoon destruction Sportblog Share on Pinterest Rugby World Cup Share via Email The last time the All Blacks lost a World Cup match was in 2007. It was a match I do not have fond memories of, having played in it, but incredibly valuable lessons were learned considering New Zealand’s record in the tournament since. Two things stand out when looking at why we lost that match against France. Firstly, we tinkered with our game plan throughout the pool stages and we just didn’t quite get it right in the quarter-final. Secondly, we had not been tested at all in the pool stages and we came up against a team on a completely different level to anything we had experienced.The first point shows the danger of not having clarity but I am not sure the second is relevant at this World Cup. Back then we put 70-odd points on Italy, more than 100 on Portugal, we thrashed Scotland because they were fielding a weakened team and scored another 80 against Romania. It will be interesting to see how England deal with the transition. I do not believe that the cancelled match against France will be much of a problem. Teams such as New Zealand and England can use that extra time to their benefit. Yes both teams have a couple of players who would have benefited from the extra game time, Mako Vunipola and Brodie Retallick for example, but both sets of players have been afforded a bit of downtime and then they can put in the extra analysis – everything will be that little bit more detailed.Where things could be problematic for England is the lack of experience of knockout international rugby. They did not get out of their pool four years ago which means there are only a few players in the squad with experience of playing a sudden-death World Cup match. Making up for that though, is the fact that the core of this team has huge experience of playing knockout club rugby. You look at the Saracens spine of this team and the amount of European matches they have won – Super Rugby does not have that kind of equivalent. Read more Rugby World Cup: how the quarter-finalists shape up … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Rugby union The biggest concern I have over England is their discipline and whether it stands up when the heat is on in the knockout stages. It is the only area where I worry about them and how a game could slip away from them. They play right on the edge, defensively they are right on that line and the one thing you do not want to do in a quarter or a semi-final is give teams easy outs. If England find themselves charging into rucks when there is no genuine chance of winning the ball, or if they find themselves going in at the side, it would not surprise me to see referees clamping down on that sort of thing the deeper we go into the tournament.With the pool stages now complete we are going to have very experienced assistant referees and that makes a difference – very little is going to go unnoticed. If England’s opponents try and get under their skin, how will they react?center_img Since you’re here… Share on Messenger Chris Jack and Nick Evans following defeat to France in the 2007 World Cup. Photograph: Ross Land/Getty Images Australia rugby union team England rugby union team comment You then get to the quarter-finals and the difference is huge. That is not the case any more. The lesser teams are competitive for long spells and while some scorelines have ended up as blow outs, things have improved so much in terms of athletic ability and physicality – all teams hit hard. All teams have strength and conditioning coaches, they have nutritionists and the benefits are being reaped.Having said that, there is inevitably a different feel when it becomes knockout rugby. Suddenly there is no tomorrow and all the players will all be aware of that. The key, and this is where the coaching staff come in, is to try and keep everything process driven as much as possible. When you start worrying about the outcome, that’s when you have a problem. That was the big thing that changed for the All Blacks after 2007.You have to try and keep the mood and the atmosphere in the camp the same, or as similar as you can, whether it be a pool stage match against Portugal or a quarter-final against France. For New Zealand, it was the development of the players’ leadership group after 2007 that has been key. How they learned to deal with the pressure and how they kept ice cold “blue” heads rather than panicked “red” heads in the crucial situations. Twitter Because I fully expect that sort of challenge from Australia on Saturday. At the breakdown Australia will really try and put them under pressure, slow the ball down and try to take the sting out of England’s power game. It will be niggly and how England’s discipline holds up will be fascinating.To give them their dues, England have been clinical so far. They’ve responded and adapted to what has happened to them. Teams want to lift their performances against England but Eddie Jones’s players have found a way to get the result they needed. I think they are in a good place. The expectation will come from outside the group but I do expect an awkward, potentially scrappy game against Australia. The breakdown will be a massive contest and that could make it stop-start and help England in terms of their tactical kicking.Either way, it should be a cracking encounter and it will be proper knockout rugby. These are the matches that everyone has been waiting for and while we’ve had a wonderful pool stage, bookended by New Zealand and South Africa going at it and then Japan’s incredible win over Scotland, it is now that the World Cup really starts. Share on Twitter Support The Guardian Share on LinkedIn The Breakdown: sign up and get our weekly rugby union email. Topics Australia sport Reuse this contentlast_img

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