Putting doubt in All Blacks minds key for England – Eddie Jones

Coach says New Zealand’s ability to play tighter game makes them difficult to beat

As Eddie Jones was keen to stress, there is a big difference between knowing how to beat New Zealand and actually doing it. "It's not like Pythagoras's theorem," he said on Monday. "I don't think there's any magic formula."

True, but never before have England had so much inside information on the All Blacks at their fingertips. In addition to the vastly experienced Jones and the English representatives on last year's Lions tour, the home side can also call on the former All Blacks coach John Mitchell and Brad Shields, until recently the Hurricanes captain in Super Rugby.

England have no need to install a bugging device at New Zealand’s hotel in Teddington to infiltrate Kiwi minds. Jones has pitted his wits against the All Blacks often enough as the Australia coach to understand precisely how best to unsettle them. “You’ve got to play a certain way against them, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “There are parts of the game they enjoy and you want to take them away from them.

“The attitude with which you start the game, the ferocity you play with . . . you’ve got to be in the game. Then, when you get the opportunity to score points, you’ve got to be good enough to take them.”


If it sounds simple, New Zealand’s winning percentage of 91 since the 2015 World Cup suggests otherwise. “They’re not a tricky team, they’re a good team,” added Jones. “Ninety one per cent is amazing. There’s no other sporting team in the world that does that. I have never coached against a New Zealand side that doesn’t expect to win. It is in their blood.

Golden moments

“You go to a sandwich shop and they tell you how they’re going to beat you. You go to fill your car up and they tell you how they’re going to beat you. It is in the psyche of the country. The challenge is to make them feel as though they are not confident, that there is something at the back of their heads they have got to scratch. And that’s the challenge for us.”

As Jones has found to his cost over the years, seeking to beat the All Blacks at their own game – “If it’s a game of sevens they’re going to win every time” – usually ends badly. The Wallabies had occasional golden moments under Jones, often by targeting the lineout and scrum, but even that narrow avenue has become tougher to exploit in recent years.

“When we were successful with Australia we could beat them because we could get to their set-piece, particularly their lineout. Since 2011 their lineout has gone from good to being outstanding. So has their scrum and the depth of their players. Now they’re able to play that tighter game when it’s required and that’s why it’s so difficult to beat them.”


The competition for places within the New Zealand set-up is a further factor, ensuring complacency never sets in. “You only had to watch their B/C team playing against Japan on Saturday,” Jones said. “They put 70 points on the 11th-ranked team in the world and played within themselves. No player can afford to sit still. If you are sitting at the Lensbury [New Zealand’s base this week] having a cup of tea and a scone watching that game, you’re thinking you have to play well this week.”

On the rare occasions they are outsmarted, Jones can also testify that New Zealanders learn quickly.

“Steve [Hansen] gave me a lesson in 2000 in the final of Super Rugby. Never show all your cards. The Brumbies had already beaten the Crusaders at home, scrummed them to death, before we played them in the final. We were the best team and they scrummed us in the final by doing a couple of different things. Steve is a very good astute coach. You’ve only got to look at his record.”

That experience, among others, also taught Jones to think one step ahead in big weeks like this.

“The result is obviously important, but the big thing is what you learn. That is why it is so important . . . because then you’ll have an idea of what you need to do to be the best team in the world.”

Regardless of England’s fortunes on Saturday, he is already eyeing an even more stunning ambush of the All Blacks in Japan next year.

– Guardian