England eye revival against All Blacks in July

England v South Africa  Semi Final Rugby World Cup France 2023

In the Sunday Times, Stuart Barnes wondered whether England would 'tweak' its game in the two Tests in Dunedin and Auckland.

"The All Blacks have players who have retired, are injured or are on sabbatical in Japan. They have a new coach in Scott Robertson and a likely new first-choice flyhalf in Damian McKenzie.

"The Chiefs flyhalf/fullback/flyhalf [sic] is a thrilling footballer but not anywhere near as efficient a kicker as Japan-based Richie Mo'unga.

"The great Aaron Smith is also gone. The twin pillars of their kicking game are absent."

With that in mind, Barnes asked why England needed a player skilled in aerial play on the tour.

Fellow former British & Irish Lions back Jeremy Guscott said in The Rugby Paper that England needed to drop the underdog mentality it used during the Six Nations.

"New Zealand will not suddenly attempt to adopt the role of underdogs in their two home Tests against England – and there is no way that England should rely on what other people think of them as their main motivation."

Guscott said one area of concern in England's play was its defence, which is based on NFL defence with a focus on the front line, secondary, and scramble. But scramble defence is not new and has been around for 30-40 years.

"New Zealand will test it to the full, in the same way Ireland did. The All Blacks are as fit as Ireland, and their attacking skill and shape are second to none.

"Is the England blitz, secondary and scramble good enough to contain New Zealand's all-encompassing attack? It's a mouthwatering prospect – and I hope that head coach Steve Borthwick takes a squad to New Zealand to play the high-intensity, high-risk rugby they produced against Ireland and France and the high-level engagement and fitness it requires.

"That is now England's benchmark. If we see it again in the summer tour against the All Blacks, and they carry it over into a very challenging Autumn Series, with another Test against New Zealand, and two more against South Africa and Australia, then England will be on the way to becoming a real force again."


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