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The All Blacks on England's blitz defence and how they will respond at Eden Park

By Ben Smith
Damian McKenzie of the New Zealand All Blacks passes during the International Test Match between New Zealand All Blacks and England at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 06, 2024 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England came out breathing fire in Dunedin with rapid line speed in their aggressive defensive system against the All Blacks.


The first possession was a chaotic sequence with Rieko Ioane getting free down the left edge, but without momentum as the pressured pass hit his back shoulder, before he linked with Mark Tele’a. The delay allowed England to close.

That was the story of the night as the All Blacks managed to get the ball into the space often but England’s pressure successfully slowed any momentum, allowing their cover defence to clean up.

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Head coach Scott Robertson praised England’s ability to bring that kind of heat on defence, but he was optimistic having seen opportunities out there that went unfinished.

“There is only a few teams in the world who can bring it that quick, South Africa probably being the other, just in terms of genuine [pressure],” he said in his post-game comments.

“The second, third pass, they give the outside you know and ‘we will go get ya’ when the ball is in the air. We created some opportunities you know, but we just didn’t quite finish enough in the first half to get a couple of scores so they had to chase the game.

“When it was close, TJ got injured, obviously start of the second half we got into a grind and just found a way.”


It was a challenge that All Black wing Sevu Reece said “they knew was coming” but the backs couldn’t quite capitalise enough on.

The right winger alluded to changes at Eden Park as the side looks for more solutions.

“They’ve played a few Tests, you know the Six Nations and in Japan, we knew that was coming,” Reece said, ” but they do it so well.”

“That’s the thing you know. They do it really well and they stopped us a few times from getting out wide.

“We will have to come back next week and learn from that and come up with other strategies.”


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The All Blacks did unlock the England defence twice down the right side in the first half.

The first try came from a cross-field kick from Damian McKenzie to Reece in open pasture after multiple phases of front foot momentum.

England had been shortened up after a punch up the middle from Mark Tele’a and the “kick pass” from McKenzie to Reece delivered the blow.

Again it was down the right side when fullback Stephen Perofeta pierced the line, using smart footwork to bounce around No 8 Ben Earl before linking with Ardie Savea floating on the right wing.

First five-eighth Damian McKenzie had a poised game and was influential in both tries. It was McKenzie who often found the right pass to get the ball to the space, but he credited England’s system with having an impact.

“When the ball is in the air a long time with our long passes, it gives them time to get up and spot tackle,” McKenzie said.

“Whether it is shortening our passes up and trying to get that ball to space, the space is there but the way England defend, they make it tough to get it to that space.

“We will look at it this week but I think we did a great job at times and there are a few times we could’ve been a bit better.”

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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Toaster 15 days ago

Not sure why there is huge concern

Many changes to the ABs and many players who haven’t played for a long time

Scooter for two months

Saders players several weeks

Canes a few weeks and guys like Lomax have also had a domestic sabbatical- so hardly any minutes

New coaching team and lots for the players to digest

Nothing changes - it will be another very tough match next week against a desperate England

GrahamVF 15 days ago

Has anyone seen or heard anything from Redandwhitedynamite? I’m worried about him. Without his absurd drivel this site is too sane for words. It’s disturbing.

Timgrugpass 15 days ago

Forwards & kicks play to the sidelines for backs to play across the field to stretch the defense. OR same play to the middle, keep the defense guessing & splitting.

Alex 15 days ago

Ben, I would highly suggest you invest in some editing/proofreading software. This writing is a complete shambles. Order your thoughts, and then logically sequence

NeilB_Denver 15 days ago

In handing Robertson his first international victory, Borthwick showed the ABs England’s defense.

Next week, in handing Robertson his first international defeat, he’ll show the ABs England’s attack.

You didn’t think he was going to show all his cards, did you?

You’re welcome.

Jon 16 days ago

Still nothing tieing the forwards and backs together in the backline. Had hoped to see something even with just a few training runs. It was largely back to 2020 Foster rugby, just with slightly more developed players, but the same problems/difficulties when it came down to it.

Chris 16 days ago

Scraped past a very young English team. They are mostly 21 years old. That front rower looks like he’s 12 lol. One kick from Marcus Smith and Razor the messiah would’ve been very human after all. Anyways congratulations on the win. We look forward to Johannesburg.

Andrew 16 days ago

“It was a challenge that All Black wing Sevu Reece said “they knew was coming” but the backs couldn’t quite capitalise enough on.”
It would help if you were actually a centre and didnt die with the ball so often.

Vellies 16 days ago

You can see the influences of Felix Jones with Eng defence, but you can see Razor's influence with NZ… 🤔

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Wonton 3 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

18 Go to comments
Nick 4 hours ago
How 'gazelle' Nick Frost thawed the hearts of Wallaby fans at Suncorp

Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

14 Go to comments
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