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New era: All Blacks firmly focused on ‘massive’ England challenge

By Finn Morton
All Blacks coach Scott Robertson speaks during the New Zealand All Blacks International Test Squad Announcement at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre on June 24, 2024 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Assistant coach Jason Holland has explained the All Blacks have prepared a game plan “based initially on beating England” in a blockbuster two-Test series in New Zealand next month.

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Coach ‘Razor’ Robertson said it on Monday evening, with the boss revealing “we’ve picked a squad to win this England series.” However, having another member of the All Blacks’ management group repeat a similar message speaks volumes about their intent.

This isn’t about The Rugby Championship, Bledisloe Cup or anything else, it’s about the two matches against England and a clash with Fiji in San Diego. It’s an apologetically direct statement for both coaches to share at the dawn of a new era for New Zealand.

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Crusaders lock Scott Barrett will captain the team, while five uncapped players will look to potentially pull on the black jersey for the first time. It’s an exciting time for the group with one of the All Blacks’ traditional rivals coming to town.

While fans may have strong opinions about the omission of Hoskins Sotutu, Ruben Love, and others, this is a team picked with England in mind. Steve Borthwick’s men knocked off Ireland in the Six Nations and are coming off a dominant win over Japan last weekend.

“We talked a length during January, February, March around what we think is important to win international footy and the balance in our game,” Holland said on SENZ’s Bleeding Black.

“The game plan has been picked based on initially beating England and then there’s potential to add four players, once we get through the first three games, to go into The [Rugby] Championship versus the Argentinians, South Africans and Aussies.

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“It’s specifically the first three games is what we’re looking at, at the moment.”

Of the five uncapped players in the squad, three of them are forwards. George Bell, Wallace Sititi and Pasilio Tosi will all look to make their mark if given the chance, and it’s important they do considering the strengths that England has.

Crusader George Bell is one of three hookers along with Super Rugby teammate Codie Taylor, and also Asafo Aumua who returns to the national setup for the first time in years. There are only three locks, including Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu, but six loose forwards.

With the set-piece and physical battles expected to play a big part in these blockbuster Test matches, the idea that internationals are ‘won up front’ may once again prove true.

“I think the All Blacks have got, in the last year or so, and watching the boys in Super Rugby, scrum-wise I think we’ve got to a pretty good spot. Obviously, that’ll be a massive challenge against the English,” Holland explained.

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“With the tight five that’ve been picked and the front row, I think we’re in a pretty good spot there and Jason Ryan will be powering some work into that no doubt over the next 10 or 12 days when we get together.

“That side of the game and the physical side of the game from one to 15 and one to 23 is a massive part of where we need to be to beat England.”

The All Blacks will assemble in Wellington on Wednesday where they’ll train out of the Hurricanes’ base. After four days on, followed by a day off on Sunday, the New Zealanders will regather for a normal Test match training schedule.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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6 Comments
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B.J. Spratt 24 days ago

Can Alex Mitchell and Marcus Smith save the Poms? Don’t think so! France hammered them 53 -10 at Twickenham at home last year. Ten times harder at Dunedin.

Really want to see them “Cry” after the game. That would make it worth watching.

B
Barry 24 days ago

Ricky Razors!!!! Yes bhoy! Go tough. Talk big. Play into their hands. Extra pressure.

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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