Wednesday 18 September 2019

How to stop the All Black juggernaut

Men who have beaten rugby’s most famous team share some valuable advice with Mick Cleary

George Gregan: You have got to have the capacity to play beyond the 80 minutes to beat New Zealand. Photo: Jeff Brass/Getty Images
George Gregan: You have got to have the capacity to play beyond the 80 minutes to beat New Zealand. Photo: Jeff Brass/Getty Images

Mick Cleary

Ignore the aura

England's Lewis Moody gave up watching footage of the All Blacks as he found it only reinforced just how good they were.

Before playing New Zealand in November 2002, England's team meeting underlined the message.

"Clive Woodward and (defence coach) Phil Larder, wrote the respective teams up on a flip chart and went through them one by one, stating that they would not trade one England player for an All Black opponent," said Moody.

"Phil monstered us on defence that week. And we loved it. You would never get away with it now. Health and safety would intervene. Two hours long and full-pelt.

"Phil wanted us to smoke each other in a drill. I was up against Martin Johnson. 'Johnno' took me to one side and told me he was coming at me full speed in an upright position and I was to level him. I did. We both went sprawling. It gave me one of the biggest shoulder stingers I have ever had.

But it set the tone. We won 31-28."

Be true to yourself

It has become one of the game's most famous sledges. Australia had just snuffed out New Zealand's World Cup hopes and the devastated All Blacks were lying stricken on the turf in Sydney when the exultant Wallaby scrum-half George Gregan bellowed: "Four more years!"

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

The All Blacks had been favourites but Australia - coached by Eddie Jones - had the will and the wit to get to them, winning 22-10.

"You have got to be yourself against New Zealand," said Gregan, who won a record 139 caps between 1994 and 2007.

"Copycat never works. You need to be comfortable in your own skin. There was a lot of pent-up stuff going into that semi-final but we had a plan and we stuck to it.

"That (the sledge) was just one of those heat-of-the-moment things. You have got to have the capacity to play beyond the 80 minutes to beat New Zealand."

Draw on the Lions factor

The Lions had a record 11 Englishmen in their side when they beat the All Blacks 20-7 in the second Test in Wellington on the 1993 tour. Four months later, the All Blacks came to Twickenham.

"We packed the side with Lions players who knew from first-hand experience that the All Blacks were not infallible," said Dick Best, assistant coach to the Lions and England coach from 1992-'94.

"That belief counts for a lot as this generation who drew the Lions series there only last year will know. England must not be afraid to keep it tight and take them on in the forwards if they think that is the best way to win.

"Our game-plan was utterly boring. It was kick and chase, hammer and harry.

"It was a horrible advert but people were doing cartwheels in the streets when we won. Eddie's England have to stick to their guns."

Play through the pain

Kyran Bracken was making his Test debut in 1993 when he had his ankle stamped on by New Zealand flanker Jamie Joseph, but the Englishman had the last laugh.

That 15-9 victory at Twickenham contributed to a playing record of two wins, one draw and two defeats against the All Blacks - significantly better than most have managed.

"That stamp did do some damage but I was damned if I was coming off," Bracken said. "You've got to put it all out there to defeat a New Zealand side, right from the start.

"The All Blacks had inflicted Scotland's worst defeat (51-15) in 122 years the week before they came to Twickenham in '93. It was a mammoth task for us, just as it is now with England. But that brings the best out of you.

"We managed to hang on in there and got through on kicks. England won't be able to rely on Owen Farrell's boot. They will have to score some tries."

Trust in your tactics

Ian McGeechan's sparring with the All Blacks dates back to the 1971 Lions tour when he played all four Tests in that winning series.

He was head coach when the Lions were denied a series win in 1993 by a contentious late penalty in the third Test.

Scotland, too, had their moments, notably on their tour there in 1990 when they came within three points of beating the All Blacks in Auckland before going down 21-18.

"You can't just sit back and expect to beat a New Zealand team," said McGeechan.

"You have to challenge them, put doubt in their mind. You must have clarity about what you are doing and a collective buy-in to the game-plan.

"For that Scotland game in 1990 we set out to attack them at one of their strongest areas - the back-row.

"Your job as a coach is to give direction and confidence to the players.

"That is what Eddie will do." (© The Daily Telegraph)

Subscribe to The Left Wing,'s Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

Listen and subscribe to The Left Wing on iTunes and Soundcloud

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport