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All Blacks attack coach commends England's new and improved defence

By Ned Lester
The England players are slowly getting to grips with Felix Jones' defensive system (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

New Zealand and England fans are now counting down the days before their national teams meet in Dunedin to kick off a highly anticipated series, with the rivalry entering a brand new era.

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Of course, before we get there, New Zealand fans have a Super Rugby Pacific final to get through and England have a Test against Japan, which will be streamed live on RugbyPass TV.

The last time the two nations collided, a 25-25 draw at Twickenham, the coaching staff were entirely different with Eddie Jones at England’s helm and Ian Foster running the Kiwi ship.

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Walk the Talk with Eddie Jones – Trailer | RPTV

Eddie Jones reflects on his career, rugby’s growth in Japan, coaching England and Australia, South African rugby and much more. Full episode coming Tuesday 18 June on RPTV

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This time around, Steve Borthwick and a refreshed England coaching group face some familiar faces in a brand new All Blacks contingent.

New Zealand attack coach Jason Holland discussed his connections with his English counterparts and revealed when his analysis of the English team started.

“Have I started watching them? I suppose about an hour after I got told I had the job was when we started watching England,” the former Huuricanes head coach told the All Blacks Podcast.

“But they’re quite different now. Watching the World Cup, and looking at it from an attack point of view, I could see some real space that I thought wow there’s some nice space, we can have a crack there from our set piece, from our lineout or a scrum. I thought that’s nice.

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“But then, coming into the Six Nations they were totally different, way more organised for me, way more aligned as to what they’re trying to do on both sides of the ball.

“I think they’re trying to use the ball a bit more, I think they’ll never go away from their DNA, around the dominance around the set piece and the physicality in them trying to achieve that, but they’re definitely a more organised team defensively.

“I actually coached (new England defence coach) Felix Jones at Munster, he came in after the World Cup from South Africa and Felix, he’s a bit like Rog (Ronan O’Gara), they’re pretty driven guys and they know what they want and Felix has obviously put a lot of good systems in place for England defensively. And they’ve got some good individuals there that will be pretty hard on our ball.

“So there’s definitely been some real growth I reckon. I talk about balance quite often and Steve Borthwick, who loves the physical side of the game, but obviously understands the balance as well because he’s got some guys there who have got them playing a little bit more footy and being more of a threat with the ball in hand, not just by kicking.

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“I reckon what they were doing at the World Cup there, they were pretty unlucky not to be even closer, I reckon they were playing some great footy and it looks like they’re going to be pretty strong with their personnel as to who they bring over.”

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Holland isn’t the only one in the All Blacks camp with connections to their opponents, as forwards coach Jason Ryan also revealed to the All Blacks Podcast in a separate episode earlier last week.

“I’ve seen a lot of England, I’ve got a lot of respect for them,” Ryan said. “Personally I’ve got a bit of a relationship with Steve Borthwick, I’ve stayed in touch with him since we played the Lions in 2017 when I was doing Super with the Crusaders.

“We’ve always stayed in touch, maybe not staying in touch so much this year,” Ryan laughed. “But, I enjoy having a coffee with him and a good rugby conversation.

“He’s coaching them well, they’ve got a big forward pack and a good mix of experience still in there and they’ve got some big, powerful ball-carriers.

“They’re a real good Test side and heading in the right direction. We’ve got full respect for them and we’ll prepare really deeply on that and we had a good look at the Six Nations, as I’m sure they’ve had a good look at us.

“There’s probably a little bit of unknown with us too, with how they’ve previewed, potentially. So, that brings a bit of excitement for the Test series.”

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1 Comment
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Jon 30 days ago

Nickers will be happy with his own synopsis after reading this.

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Mzilikazi 4 hours ago
Daugunu salvo shows why Wallabies work-rate is everything to Schmidt

Nice article, Brett, and good to be writing about a second win. I think Georgia will be far more testing. Tbh, I have not looked at their touring squad, but at full strength they are a far better and more dangerous team than they were at RWC France. They would have been disappointed they did not perform to full potential there. I think that the WB’s under Joe Schmidt have started soundly. Recovery from a serious setback always takes time. And the Jones era was that and more. I think the arrival of Les Kiss back to his native Qld. is a very positive factor, and the fact that he and Schmidt know each other well is a help. Players I think are much improved this year: Daugunu, who has blossomed with the Rebels, so credit to the coaching unit down there. Am pleased he will come back to the Reds. McReight is said to have put on up to 7 kgs since last season. His work rate has always been good, but it is his carrying into contact that has gone up. Now makes those critical one or two metres post contact very often. Is conceding fewer penalties now as his game matures. Rob Valetini was good last year, but is now a greater force this one. A really punishing ball carrier. Hunter Paisami is now a more controlled player. His carrying into contact is very impressive for an 80 kg man. Interestingly, if you saw Nick Bishops latest article, he has a team for RC with Kerevi at 12. Also Skelton in the team. Not sure if there will be o’seas players as early as RC though….but need them in by the EYOT games.

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