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Jeremy Guscott column

Jeremy Guscott

Former Bath, England & Lions centre

If I'm honest, I don't give England much hope against New Zealand on Saturday.

You always raise your game against the All Blacks and England have got to play with aggression and ambition at Twickenham if they are to have any chance of righting the wrongs of last week's thrashing by South Africa.

Anything less will not be good enough against such a powerful and skilful side. And here's what I think Martin Johnson's men have to get right.


It's hardly rocket science, but England have simply got to straighten up their attack.

I know that this is what gets drummed into players from five-years-old upwards, but England - in the backs particularly - haven't been doing it so far this autumn.

England scrum-half Danny Care
Danny Care needs to get England's attack off on the right foot
When New Zealand are on form - as they are now - watch how the ball fizzes down the backline. The ball is in front for the receiving player to run on to at pace.

For England it starts at scrum-half with Danny Care taking a few sideways steps. Before you know it, Danny Cipriani is doing the same at fly-half and then it follows down the line and there's no space for anybody out wide.

How many times did England throw the ball out into touch or run out of room next to the touchline against South Africa last weekend? There's been nothing direct or pacy about England so far.

What have we got Jamie Noon in the team for if he's not going to straighten the line and bang it up the centre?

It's criminal to kick away good turnover ball at Test level - that should be your best chance of catching the defence cold. It has to be run with the intention of getting the ball wide as quickly as possible.

Turnover ball has to be fizzed down the line and let the quick guys run and eat up that ground.

England have a back three that is full of pace and potential but they have to be used properly.


You have to target Richie McCaw and be aware of what he is doing at all times.

New Zealand captain Richie McCAw
England know all about McCaw's ability at the breakdown
It is a question of thinking - very quickly - about what you are going to do at every contact situation, not just putting your head down and blindly going in.

If you are running at McCaw, you have to win the collision - you can't let him knock you backwards because he will roll you, stand up and then start ripping the ball. That's what makes him such a dangerous player.

But if he does regain his feet at the tackle, the next England player on the scene has got to target McCaw and clean him out. If that doesn't happen, then he will snaffle up the ball all day.

Even if you are not running at McCaw, you have to watch where he is and what he is going to do. It's a question of being quicker to the ball than he is, which is easier said than done.


If England are to get any joy at all out of a defence that has yet to concede a try in the Tests since they arrived in Europe, they need to show a lot more intelligence than they did against either South Africa or Australia.

If you bust the first defensive line, you are then going to have to deal with their scramble defence and you can't beat that without support.

You have to smash into them, recycle quickly and then get around them - that might take three or four phases.

They are no different to any other side, they're going to have forwards defending in the middle of the park and if you can get Delon Armitage or Paul Sackey one-on-one against one of their props then you have to fancy our guys.


You just have to pressurise him as much as you can, because otherwise he will destroy you.

New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter
Carter's speed is enough to breach the tightest of defences
Carter lulls you into a false sense of security because he makes everything look so easy. He seems to have more time when he's on the ball than anybody else on the pitch; it's like watching someone like Dimitar Berbatov playing football.

He doesn't need to sprint full-out in the way that the rest of us have to. He kind of lollops around and you don't realise just how deceptively quick and agile he is.

If he is not making a break himself, he is firing the ball out down his backline. He is just a very intelligent rugby player who knows when to pass, when to break and when to kick.

Carter is the best fly-half in the world and playing behind that pack has to be an absolute dream.

I don't envy Michael Lipman's task this weekend one little bit. He has to outplay McCaw as well as stopping Carter. Easy!


I don't believe England can be more physical than New Zealand in the forwards because they are not fit enough.

If you watch eight forwards from England and measure them up against eight from New Zealand, it will be pretty clear who the most athletic are. A little clue: they won't be wearing white.

England trudge off the pitch after the game against South Africa
England have to keep their energy levels high against New Zealand
The real problem is that if England play slowly or attempt to just defend, they will get absolutely torn to shreds.

You have to take the game to them and fight fire with fire as Wales did in the first half last weekend. You have to commit your body and soul to the game.

As a squad and as individuals, they have to accept that your lungs are going to be burning on many occasions - particularly if it is dry and the All Blacks start to play with lots of width.

It's likely to be the most physical and the quickest game in the careers of many England players. I would hope that they will have nothing in the tank at the final whistle - they should be crawling off the pitch.

Players have been coming off disappointed because they lost but there's still been petrol left in the tank. In the 1997 game when England drew 26-26 with New Zealand, guys were being sick at half-time because they were pushing themselves to the limit.


If you decide to kick, you are usually giving possession to the other team so you have to be accurate and you must have a good chase.

New Zealand full-back Mils Muliaina
Muliaina is a dangerous attacking force from the back for New Zealand
If England allow any of New Zealand's back three to get momentum, they will be ripped to shreds.

Actually, it wouldn't be a bad tactic to put pressure on Mils Muliaina at full-back because he is not the biggest or the strongest.

He is very quick but if the kick and chase is good and someone like Jamie Noon smashes him and knocks the wind out of him, England could be in business. We have not seen any of those guys get hit hard on this tour and England have got to get to them.

Jeremy Guscott was speaking to BBC Sport's Mark Orlovac.

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see also
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Johnson says defeat was 'brutal'
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England drop to fifth in rankings
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England 14-28 Australia
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England 39-13 Pacific Islanders
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