Twickenham Focus II: A positive prescription to beat the All Blacks: The Australian assistant coach, Bob Templeton (left), outlines his strategy for success against a New Zealand team who are developing an aura of invincibility

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The Independent Online
FOR ENGLAND to give themselves a chance against New Zealand at Twickenham this weekend, they should not concentrate on a plan based on containment. They must be positive and make things happen. It would be fatal to stand back like Scotland and allow their rivals to gain momentum.

Any team hoping to beat the All Blacks must forget about fairy- tales and luck. Instead, it is crucial to work out how they are likely to play and devise measures to counter including a number of options.

England must also kick their penalties. On the evidence of the Scotland match there should be a number. Whether this is a conflict of law interpretation I cannot say, but it might be part of the All Blacks' game plan to take a calculated risk to ensure a try is not conceded.

New Zealand have been Australia's greatest rivals for almost a century and this has helped our rugby attain such a high standard. Both countries adopt a similar pattern of play, based on pace, explosive running and aggressive tackling. Then that vital ingredient - support.

An illustration of the latter was seen when Marc Ellis scored the first try at Murrayfield. The ball went through six pairs of hands and when needed there was always a player ready to continue the move following a tackle.

I am certain those who influence England's planning will have noted that the first instinct of most Scottish players was to kick rather than run. Against such rugby-wise opposition this proves suicidal. England must retain possession and recycle quickly to ensure they limit the All Blacks' chances of changing the line of attack.

In today's rugby the line-out is crucial and I regard Ian Jones as one of the best ball-winners in the game. He helped to provide, with the help of others like Jamie

Joseph, a platform against Scotland. England must contest every line-out to force mistakes and gain possession.

I am not able to comment critically about England's selection but hope that those who made the decisions are aware they are up against a brilliant back row in Zinzan Brooke, Arron Pene, and Joseph. If they are not tied up they are capable of initiating some telling movements.

England are certain to grieve the loss of Peter Winterbottom, whose rare qualities allowed him to improve with age. Martin Bayfield's absence does not help during a time when the pack is being rebuilt.

There are many gifted backs wearing the red rose but to play a running game effectively depends on what I call the middle six - back row, half-backs, and inside centre. If they work together in harmony, combined with speed and ball skills, gaps are certain to appear. Often in Test matches a team has only a couple of opportunities which must be turned into points.

New Zealand's overwhelming victory last Saturday brought into focus the difference between the southern hemisphere approach and how the game is played here. I have heard it suggested that they produced a new dimension of rugby. I must stress it is basically attention to fundamentals like

using the ball effectively, running at opponents with intensity and avoiding going to ground.

When I am coaching the Harlequins, I have always stressed the importance of backs standing closer together so that the ball can be moved accurately and quickly. Also, attackers must commit defenders to create space and avoid long passes, so reducing the margin of error.

These skills should be taught at an early age, preferably at school. Then it is important to create pressure in training as in matches. That is how it beomes instinctive to provide a pass when hemmed in.

I concentrate on the importance of the offensive tackle to knock back an opponent to regain possession, as seen by the All Blacks' play on tour. Also it is important to fill defensive gaps when the opposition is attacking.

Frank Bunce, the All Blacks' centre, is one of the best tacklers in the game and poses a big threat if the attacker fails to retain possession. Bunce oozes aggression and is a master in knowing how to sustain a movement.

There is no doubt southern hemisphere teams play a more positive and explosive game. Their players are able to move from a club environment to high profile provincial teams like Auckland, Otago, Waikato, New South Wales, Queensland, and enjoy a competition level just below Test standard.

This is why New Zealand were able to bring over a young team with a number of new names capable of adapting quickly to the

international stage. They played four new caps against Scotland.

I don't think Test matches are more important to southern hemisphere countries than those in Britain. It is possible we understand more about creating pressure to break down opponents and the discipline of patience and not trying to score from a first assault. Like ground soldiers you make progress slowly but strike when the opportunity occurs.

New Zealand are rated favourites but England still possess an excellent back line. However, they must run straighter than previously and be well supported to maintain continuity. Failure would mean the All Blacks being allowed to dictate the pattern of play.

Bob Templeton was talking to Terry O'Connor

(Photograph omitted)

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