All Blacks give England a lesson in set-piece attack (part 2) Posted over 2 years ago


SET-PIECE ATTACK offers teams a wonderful chance to create try-scoring chances, given that the side in possession can pre-plan their moves and exploit the space created by the forwards being restricted to one small area of the pitch.

Continued from Part 1 in the series of All Black lineout attacks

Julian Savea’s disallowed try

Perhaps the best of New Zealand’s three excellent line-outs attacks in the opening 15 minutes against England was the one that ended without a try. Hansen’s charges used the same move they attempted for Savea’s first score, but pulled it off successfully this time.

Like earlier in the game, the passage starts with a good line-out maul from the Kiwis, driving forward five metres before the ball is released. It’s worth noting that the maul is still making progress when McCaw pops the ball off to scrum-half Smith; front foot ball for the backs and a nightmare to defend for England.

Similarly to the two tries we have already looked at, there are major spacing issues for the England midfield defence in this passage. Out-half Burns is drawn close to the maul as Jane comes off his wing to offer himself as a carrier off Smith. As a result, Eastmond is drawn in tighter to line up opposite Cruden. But as we have seen in the video above, the Kiwi out-half runs that now familiar line out the back of Nonu and into the space between England’s centres.

Throughout all of these examples, Tuilagi has been lining up directly opposite New Zealand’s outside centre Fekitoa. Many midfield defences will start ‘tight’ to the set-piece and then use a slight drift in getting across the pitch as the opposition move the ball wider. However, England defence coach Andy Farrell prefers his defenders to line up ‘square’ to attackers, advancing straight up the pitch to tackle them, rather than ‘showing’ them the outside shoulder.
The Kiwis are aware of this, and took full advantage with these line-out attacks.

As we see above, Eastmond is now in the position where he has to stick on Nonu running a direct line back against the grain, even with Cruden drifting behind him. If Eastmond slides past Nonu onto Cruden too early, the Kiwi 12 will make a clean bust of the English line. Nonu makes an excellent pass to Cruden off his left shoulder, as Tuilagi realises that he is going to have to adjust and deal with the out-half. However, with Chris Ashton also up flat in the line, the pair of England defenders are now in no man’s land.

Cruden has the vision and handling skill to loft a basketball pass over Ashton’s head to Ben Smith, who is suddenly in space with Savea outside him. Again, Brown is the last defender for England, utterly stranded. It’s a real shame that Smith could not finish the move off by providing Savea with a pass that was not forward, but the entire attack from the Kiwis remains superb.

England struggled against New Zealand’s line-out attack inside the opening 15 minutes on Saturday, ultimately giving the home side a lead they couldn’t recover from.

What do you think? How will Lancaster and Farrell shore up England’s midfield defence? Are these lapses due to the inevitable strain of a long season?

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Murray is a freelance sports journalist based in Ireland. He has a strong interest in the technical aspects of rugby and his league of preference is the Top 14 in France.

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