England and the All Blacks will begin their World Cup journeys in Japan on different sides of the draw. If Eddie Jones and Steve Hansen do square off at the World Cup, it will be in perhaps the most anticipated final in history.
I don’t write this to discredit the other World Cup contenders, particularly a team in green. But if this one possibility does become reality, then the All Blacks 1 point victory at Twickenham will be studied gratuitously in the build-up. Let’s look at how Eddie Jones (almost) won this hypothetical World Cup final.
The defensive genius of Eddie Jones
England was one of three teams in 2018 to keep the All Blacks to under 3 metres per-carry. The only other two times the All Blacks were kept under 3 metres per-carry, they have lost. England accomplished a win in this critical area by using line speed, compact defence and chop tackles. In my last article, we discussed how the Springboks used ball focused tackles to prevent the offload and draw the All Blacks into rucks they could exploit. The chop tackle is an evolution of this tactic, designed specifically not to concede metres. In the example below, England uses one tackler to ‘chop’ the legs out from under the ball carrier, and another one to wrap up the arms or come over the top and jackal.
We can see all of the elements of England’s strategy to minimise metres per-carry here.
Quick, compact defence and chop tackles. If executed properly in our hypothetical World Cup final, this type of defence will be a great foundation for an England win. This defending alone brings England up to around a 30% chance of beating the All Blacks in my estimations. To stretch that number up towards the magical 51% mark, they need to add a kicking game that keeps the All Blacks cornered in their own half.
Using trap kicks to win the World Cup final
After Ireland’s historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago, many sides noted the effectiveness of Connor Murray’s box kicks. Ireland gave their chasers a chance to compete while cornering the All Blacks dangerous back three between the sideline and oncoming defenders. The Irish could then set their defence and trust it to keep the All Blacks out of kickable penalty range. Eddie Jones also deployed this trap kick to great effect at Twickenham. The ideal scenario plays out below, as Underhill is able to put McKenzie across the sideline after a well-timed Youngs’ trap kick.
With the addition of a kicking game like this, England can corner the All Blacks outside kickable penalty range. This brings their chances up to an estimated 40%. To reach towards the magical 51%, they will need to add some strategic chess moves to their attack.
How England used a false overload to score against the All Blacks in 112 seconds
Within 2 minutes of the opening whistle, Chris Ashton slid across in the corner for England’s opening try. This try wasn’t just impressive for the fact it happened in the blink of an eye, but also for how it was engineered. Watch Elliot Daly feign a run to the left-hand side of the ruck in back play.
If England were to go left now, they would have a chance of an overlap in the far corner. All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie has to make a decision in milliseconds. He can follow his opposite number to the far side or stay where he is to cover Chris Ashton. A millisecond of indecision is all it takes. England pass wide to Ashton who scores in the corner with the clock showing 1 minute 52 seconds. McKenzie can’t quite get there after being enticed by the false overload on the far side.
If England can pull out chess moves like this in our hypothetical World Cup final, they will boost their chances of beating the All Blacks up to an estimated 49% in my books. The final 2% comes from the smaller stuff – discipline, game management and Owen Farrell’s tackling come to mind. If these pieces fall into place during the 6 Nations, the chances of England winning that hypothetical World Cup final will only grow.
Eddie Jones’ master plan and how England can win the 6 Nations
Thanks to tactical periodisation England only have one real game-plan. In theory, this one game-plan (if executed well) can demolish any opposition. For England to overcome their 6 Nations opposition, they need to play to their full potential in all 5 games. They will also need to minimise the opportunities their opponents get to exploit their weaknesses. If they can strike early in these games before their opponents adapt, they have a decent shot at 6 Nations glory.
The 1014 Rugby reviewed how Eddie Jones almost won this game in significant detail over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.
Can Eddie Jones and England win the 6 Nations? Can they make it to the World Cup final? Let us know your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes