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Woodward details his blueprint to defuse the Springboks bomb squad

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

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Ex-England boss Clive Woodward has given his blueprint for England to defuse the famed Springboks bomb squad at Twickenham this Saturday. The countries are meeting for the first time since South Africa won the World Cup final in Japan between the pair 24 months ago and there has been much debate in the build-up to the Autumn Nations Series fixture about the inexperienced complexion of two/thirds of the front row chosen by Eddie Jones. 

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Loosehead Bevan Rood and hooker Jamie Blamire weren’t the anticipated England starters coming into the November series but Covid-19 and injury have respectively ruled out Ellis Genge and Jamie George, leaving Jones to go down an unproven route in search of a statement win 22 months out from the start of the 2023 World Cup.    

Woodward, the 2003 World Cup-winning coach, isn’t a fan of the plethora of replacements that now take place during an international, each team able to unleash an eight-man bench whenever they see fit. 

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Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith
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Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith

But he admires how the Springboks make use of their reserves and has come up with the detailed blueprint that he believes must be followed if third-ranked England are to secure a victory over the world’s No1 side.   

Writing in his latest Sportsmail column, ex-England boss Woodward outlined precisely how he would combat and defuse the bomb squad. “The key is to start fast and ensure the game is not close with half an hour to go,” he reckoned. “Take South Africa out of their comfort zone and mess with the plan. Don’t let the game unfold as they wish.

“England need to be out of the blocks fast, play at a high tempo and be clinical. It will require an intense, concentrated effort. And they need to massively up the ball-in-play time. It was way too low against Australia. That would suit South Africa. England must speed everything up because, after a bright start against the Aussies, they got dragged into a slow game that didn’t play to their strengths with a back division spearheaded by Marcus Smith.

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“Although I am not a fan of multi-phase attacks for the sake of them, at least when you do retain possession the opposition have to dance to your tune. That could reap rewards later in the game. The pack must make sure scrums are quick and efficient without the endless resets that take huge chunks of time out of the game.

“If you are going to concede possession on their put in, it’s better to do it quickly and get the game restarted than to spend two minutes faffing around. You beat the Boks by matching them in every department up front, keeping the tempo high, stretching the play and making them think. Hit them with something they’re not expecting.

“My biggest concern is the front row. Eddie has not picked Mako Vunipola, who has played in five of Saracens’ seven games this season. That decision rests squarely on Eddie’s shoulders if it backfires. My biggest hope is that this game ignites the real England and inspires a performance for the ages. I don’t think it’s far away.”

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