Containing Beauden Barrett vital for England - Barnes

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Containing the threat of All Blacks fullback Beauden Barrett will be crucial to England's hopes in Saturday's Rugby World Cup semifinal in Yokohama.

 

Former England and British & Irish Lions first five-eighths Stuart Barnes said Barrett's transformation at fullback had fulfilled the strategy devised by the All Blacks selection team.

 

Barnes said in The Times: "I'll admit to significant misgivings with this ploy back in the summer. I reached this so far fallacious conclusion on the basis that Barrett's influence would wane at the back. Against Ireland, it was quite the opposite.

 

"The 28-year-old was everywhere. He is probably the best fullback in the world as well as the best fly half. His clearance kicks to touch are as assured as his presence under a high ball. He has the basics. It is the bravura of his broken field play that tears teams apart.

 

"With Richie Mo'unga doing the structural bits and pieces from fly half, Barrett is free to roam. The try he made for George Bridge, floating somewhere between inside and outside centre against South Africa, perfectly illustrated why Steve Hansen, the New Zealand head coach, moved his miracle man to fullback. The speed and control of his hack-and-chase try against Ireland is another example of his exceptionalism in the loose," he said.

 

What England needed to do was restrict the amount of carrying that Barrett could do. If he was allowed 21 carries, as he enjoyed against Ireland, then the All Blacks would win.

 

If he had 15 carries that would probably also be enough to win. But hold him to 10 and a much tighter Test was likely.

 

"Five and (bar a few tries from his carries) England are en route to Yokohama. It will require all the tactical acumen of Eddie Jones to pull this one off.

 

"England will kick – a lot. Ben Youngs must box it too short rather than too long. There can be no opportunity for Barrett to either take the ball and counter, or for an All Black to spin the ball into midfield where he is free to create carnage.

 

"When the ball is belted downfield as part of the England pressure game, Barrett has to look up and see and advancing white wall without any gaps. He's too good a reader of the game to do anything daft. And he has too potent a boot not to kick, probably into the stands where New Zealand will seek to dominate with their four specialist jumpers to England's two. But the kick-chase has to maintain pressure," he said.

 

At the same time as thinking about that, England would need to maintain their line speed to minimise the influence of first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga and his wings George Bridge and Sevu Reece.

 

"Sever the umbilical cord linking the two No 10s and New Zealand become an exciting but inexperienced team, by necessity playing in the narrower parts of a pitch where England excel," he said.

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