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Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Jeremy Guscott's tactical view

By Jeremy Guscott
Former Bath, England and Lions centre

A constructive critique of the England side suggests that the changes Martin Johnson has made for the game against New Zealand are more defensive than attacking.

Johnson has brought in Simon Shaw, Joe Worsley and Ayoola Erinle and their inclusion is a sign England want to shore things up - literally, in the case of the former.

The Wasps second row is there to hopefully continue the good work he consistently produced on the Lions tour during the summer. He is a destructive player and one that is going to cause any team problems.

Shaw is important for England as much for his ball carrying as for his presence in the line-out and the grunt in the scrum.

When the All Blacks have got the ball he'll be a nuisance, when England have got the ball he'll be a real addition to what has so far been a lacklustre attack.

Ayoola Erinle takes on the Australia defence
New England inside centre Erinle is massive, powerful and quick

It appears that England are going to try and nullify the New Zealand attack, particularly their destructive number 12 Ma'a Nonu - that is why they have brought in the massive Erinle at inside centre.

He will work in tandem with fellow centre Dan Hipkiss to try and block the All Blacks from using Nonu through the middle.

If I was England I would still be wary because they have extra attacking threat out wide through the likes of Zac Guildford, Mils Muliaina and Sitiveni Sivivatu - Nonu could be used as a decoy.

Look out for winger Guildford. He's a very good young player and has an experienced head on young shoulders.

Lewis Moody is destructive in defence and so is Worsley, the tree cutter - anything that comes in his direction he takes down.

There's no doubt that with Worsley and Erinle, England are trying to go like for like and meet force with force.

I'm not sure what their selection adds to the attack and that's what we'll all have to wait and see about, but if Erinle can calm his nerves he can certainly be a threat because there is no doubt that someone of 6ft 3in and 17 stone running at full pelt is going to cause problems.

I wouldn't mind if England lost by 30 points playing as well as they could rather than just defending

After Erinle smashes into the middle, if they can get quick ball, which is essential, England can then use James Haskell and Shaw as a second wave of attack (see graphic at top of page) before spreading the ball wide, or using Wilkinson to prod it down into the corners.

When they have overlaps, and they have had in the first two games this November, they have to execute and take advantage of those opportunities.

I know those overlaps have been difficult for people to see, but they have created them - I've seen them after watching the games two or three times.

Because England's centres have not played together much I think they will go with the blitz defence and hope that one wave of defence is enough to nullify the New Zealand attack.

All Blacks winger Zac Guildford  on the attack against Wales
All Blacks winger Zac Guildford is an old head on young shoulders

The problem is that an intelligent attack will always beat a blitz defence.

The key to the blitz is the open side winger blocking the attack off (see graphic at top of page). He needs to step in to try and block the channel that the full-back, in this case Mils Muliaina, is attacking down.

If he does not get there to make the tackle and they get outside the winger then they are away and gone - the winger is trying to get man and ball, or drive the attackers back inside.

The timing is crucial and if they get it right it will work but I don't think it will be too long before New Zealand, with the likes of star fly-half Dan Carter on board, figure it out and get round it.

And if New Zealand do get round the outside and past England's defensive line then the All Black flyers will be very difficult to stop.

When it comes to analysing New Zealand it's very difficult to move away from Carter and captain Richie McCaw - they're the keystones for their side.

England will have told open-side flanker Moody that his job is to get to the ball before his opposite number McCaw, which is easier said than done, but the flanker has had a great autumn so far and he'll need to continue that against the best in the world.

Lewis Moody flings himself about in typical fashion against Australia
Fearless flanker Moody has excelled for England this autumn

McCaw is as good in attack as he is in defence and there's two ways to go about dealing with him.

Either you get Moody just to do his own thing, or you get him to target McCaw.

But if you go for the latter that means you are wasting time, because you are waiting for him to get to the ball and then hitting him. By then it's too late.

You've got to say to Moody 'you get there before McCaw in every circumstance'.

New Zealand will play a very structured game, just like they did against Wales.

In the first half they'll kick most of their ball when they are in their own half and chase and defend, a bit like South Africa.

If they spot any weakness they will work away at it and then prey on it in the second half.

The difference between the southern hemisphere sides and the northern hemisphere sides is that the southern hemisphere ones know what they're doing, there's a structure to their play and they make very few errors.

The chances are there will be a lot of kicking, certainly in the first half, but that's just the nature of the beast at the moment.

It takes a brave person playing international rugby at the moment to go 'do you know want, I'm going to run it back', because most of your team-mates expect you to kick it.

My wish for England this week is to go out and play with no restrictions in order to find out how good they actually are

So unless they have been working on a kick-return drill during the week, expect it to be kicked back, although in all honesty the only person who can kick well in that England back three is Mark Cueto.

England are going to be reliant on making few errors and getting across the gainline through the likes of Erinle and Matt Banahan, and then the second wave of attackers, such as Haskell and Shaw, and possibly Dylan Hartley.

The hooker, though, has to be a bit more direct rather than stepping inside and hoping to make yards that way. You won't do that against a side like the All Blacks, they'll just smash you back.

My wish for England this week is to go out and play with no restrictions in order to find out how good they actually are.

To be honest I wouldn't mind if they lost by 30 points playing as well as they could, rather than just defending.

They need to find out how good they are and since 2003 that has not happened with an England side.

Jeremy Guscott was talking to BBC Sport's James Standley.



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see also
England 6-19 New Zealand
21 Nov 09 |  English
Lewsey criticism garbage - Cueto
19 Nov 09 |  English
England call-up for Erinle & Shaw
18 Nov 09 |  English
All Blacks bring in star players
20 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
17 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
England 16-9 Argentina
14 Nov 09 |  English
England 9-18 Australia
07 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union


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