RWC Semi Final Preview: England v New Zealand - Green and Gold Rugby
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RWC Semi Final Preview: England v New Zealand

RWC Semi Final Preview: England v New Zealand

The pointy end of RWC2019 is upon us. With just four teams remaining Rugby’s showpiece event will return to Yokohama for the first of the two Semi-finals.

Background

The last time these two sides met was an absolute nail biter at Twickenham, The All Blacks coming from 15-0 to pinch a one-point win over England after a late Sam Underhill try was disallowed. Both sides have been in great form throughout Rugby World Cup 2019.

New Zealand opened their campaign with an impressive win over a strong South African side, they followed this up with big wins over Canada and Namibia before their last pool game was abandoned due to typhoon Hagibis. In similar fashion to RWC2015, it was the quarter-finals in which NZ really showcased the strike power they possess, while France was on the receiving end four years ago, it was the Irish who were completely blown off the park in this year’s edition. The men in Black-led 22-0 at halftime in Tokyo and finished the game 46-14 in an imposing 7 try performance.

England have followed a somewhat similar path to the All Blacks opening with two solid wins over Tonga and USA, respectively. They met Argentina next, but the sting was taken out of the contest with an early red card to Puma lock Tomas Lavanini virtually ending the South Americans chances of victory. Japan’s Typhoon season again reared its ugly head leading to the cancellation of their must anticipated clash against the arch rivals from across the channel. A refreshed English side was than ultra-impressive last week against a wasteful Australian team, having just 34% possession but posting a 24-point victory.

Team News

New Zealand sprung a significant shock in the one change from their side last week with captain-in-waiting Sam Cane dropped for the larger Scott Barrett. Ardie Savea will swap to openside flanker with Barrett set for his first-ever start in the All Blacks 6 Jersey. The only other changes are injury-enforced with Matt Todd succumbing to a shoulder injury and Patrick Tuipulotu taking his spot on the bench. This further indicates that NZ is set to drift slightly away from the extreme pace game they have employed so far in Japan in favour of increased ball-carrying ability and more genuine line out options.

Just the one change for England, with George Ford returning to the starting side pushing captain Owen Farrell to 12 and Manu Tuiliagi to 13. Henry Slade is the unlucky man to miss out, despite putting in a very solid shift against the Wallabies. He takes Ford’s spot on the pine. England’s coach Eddie Jones stated the return to the two playmaker model was about “getting the squad physically right.” and came from “Identifying areas we can pressure them ( New Zealand)”. Billy Vunipola will line up for his 50th test match alongside his brother Mako.

All Black flanker Ardie Savea

All Black flanker Ardie Savea

Key Matchups. 

Sam Underhill vs Ardie Savea 

It felt like the unveiling of Rugby’s next great back row duo on Saturday night, with the one-two punch of Sam Underhill and Tom Curry working to devastating effect against the Wallabies. The two young flankers form in Japan has led coach Eddie Jones to refer to them as the “Kamikaze Kids”. Underhill, along with teammate Curry, was not only successful in shutting down the veteran Wallaby duo of David Pocock and Micheal Hooper but comprehensively outplayed them. Although Curry claimed the official man of the match honours, Underhill was outstanding making 20 bone-rattling tackles, including one memorable one on Isi Naisarani, that sent the Wallaby enforcer halfway back to Melbourne. He also possesses a strong running game and has carried for 52 meters off just 12 carriers throughout RWC 2019. NZ will be fully aware of the danger the English 7 possesses with the ball, after the Bath youngster ran 40 meters, wrong-footing Beauden Barrett on his way to the try line last year at Twickenham, only for the try to be disallowed due to an earlier Courtney Lawes infringement.

Ardie Savea has bought his devastating Super Rugby and Rugby Championship form to Japan and along with teammate Beauden Barrett is considered the frontrunner for World Rugby player of the year. The Hurricanes backrower’s devastating speed combined with his incredible ability to stay alive in the tackle would have caused Eddie Jones a few sleepless nights this week. The gogglesless Savea was instrumental in the ABs thrashing of Ireland with his physicality and accuracy at the breakdown a sight to behold. The selection of Scott Barrett over Sam Cane has robbed fans of the chance to see the dual openside system go head to head again this week, but the battle between Underhill and Savea is still a mouthwatering one.

Prediction. 

England vs New Zealand

It’s sure to be a tight tussle between these two rivals come Saturday night. England has the quality, particularly in the back row and centre pairing to cause the All Blacks some real issues. The All Blacks looked ominous against Ireland and from that performance alone it is impossible to tip against them. The Red Rose has yet to be truly tested this World Cup, and I suspect that might count against them here. I’m predicting a pulsating contest, but ultimately New Zealand will prevail by 3 points to make their third successive Rugby World Cup final.

  • NSWelsham in London

    When NZ are playing against Australia, I despise them, hate them even.. But they are our ANZAC brethren and so I will always support them when they arent up against us. As an aussie living in England it was surprising as to how much the English really hate us, not just in rugby but all sports so i am hoping for NZ to do something special and not only win, but win with a might decent margin. Come on All Blacks!!!

    • adastra32

      Think you are mixing in the wrong circles. Hate is really not a factor for most sensible people up here when it comes to Australians. And the hate Gods have not listened….

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    The only way I see England winning this is through the team’s forward ball carriers. Vunipola, Vunipola, Sinckler and Tuilagi are all better than those the All Blacks have available.

    However, I’m not at all convinced by England’s attack. If England start better, the All Blacks could still pull it out in the second half. But if the All Blacks start better then I think England is doomed.

    • Keith Butler

      I fear you could be right. Still not convinced about MVs scrum ability and BV still strikes me a one dimensional. Farrell hasn’t been great at 12 either. We only have 2 genuine line out jumpers as opposed to the ABs 4. Could be a game where the ABs use kicking to disrupt the England line out and attack from there. Not feeling confident.

      • Custard Taht

        I don’t think the Kiwis are feeling as confident as usual either.
        England are a good team, Eddie is a good coach, and your lot are every bit as a capable of winning this as the Kiwis are.

        I think England have the ability to get up in the All Blacks face for 80 mins and frustrate them. The All Blacks when under pressure, are prone to the same stupid mistakes and penalties as everyone else.

        • Yowie

          Quite an on-point set of comments, now that we’re in “hindsight after the game” mode.

        • Custard Taht

          Mate, the Saffas have shown everyone how to beat the All Blacks. Unlike the Wallabies, the Poms have the skills and coach to implement and enforce the tactics.

    • I don’t agree. Whitelock, Retallick and Read cannot be dismissed like that.
      The Poms will give’m a wrestle in the first half but will be broken in the second.

  • Custard Taht

    The NZ coach is a bit weird. Not sure what he is thinking in changing his tactics based on the opposition and then selecting players to implement those tactics……strange stuff. Next thing, he will do something even crazier by changing the plan mid game if it isn’t working.

    Expecting a cracker of a game, and really, thinking it is bounce of the ball stuff as to who will win.

    Head says NZ by 3
    Heart says Eng by 3

    • Yowie

      It’s all very un-Australian

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Oliver,
    I know the bounce of the ball, referee call, odd decision etc could change the outcome but pretty happy with the team that’s picked and how they’ve built up into this.
    Sort of confident for the win and really looking forward to the game

    • Custard Taht

      I think/hope the Refs will be rather anonymous and just let the two teams have at it, with the exception of obvious dangerous or foul play.

      In my mind, this game is really the final, and whoever wins it, will lift Bill.

      • Seb V

        SA are in it. Not sure everyone is riding them off so quickly.

        • Custard Taht

          Saffas are good, but I think Eng and NZ a class above….but on their day, the Saffas, as shown against the Kiwis the last 2 years, are good enough.

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        SA/Wales would be happy if Eng/NZ plays their final this week so they can play their final next week. There’s no such thing as a easy RWC final e.g. France lost two pool games on the way to the finals in 2011 but in my opinion was the better team in the final and somewhat unlucky not to have won.

      • formerflanker

        It’s as though the refs got wind of world opinion and have backed off.

    • NSWelsham in London

      this feeling of confidence and happiness with team selection, whats that like? I haven’t felt this in such a long time.

      Carn All Blacks

  • dsb

    All Blacks to win!

  • Nutta

    It is the civic duty of all in the larger rugby world to barrack against The Butchers Apron. Go New Zealand. I’ll sit out in the garage with my Foxtel, wear my ANZAC jersey, drink Irish whiskey, lift a few weights once suitably pissed and sing republican ballads all night.

  • Ads

    Think I hate the white goods (poms) less than the All Blacks, but it is a tough one to decide.

    In truth, many of the other 193 registered nations would probably get my support if given an option.

  • Richard Patterson

    A nice preview Oliver – thank you. I sense the first 30 minutes in this contest will be crucial. The All Blacks will want to drag England into a one-on-one skills contest which means scoring early points, gaining ascendency and building scoreboard pressure will be essential. With Owen Farrell the best goal-kicker in the competition the All Blacks will need to maintain sufficient seperation where England will need to score in 7’s, not 3’s. Will their skills and execution hold up if it’s all to play for in the last 15 minutes?

    On the assumption this is possibly the hardest game of the tournament to win, what I cannot answer is how do you measure the following component to the contest…
    One coaching staff and core playing group is preparing for this match for the 3rd consecutive occasion. Once with the pressure of the weight of a nation, once in a dog-fight in the rain and now once in a very neutral country.
    One coaching staff has not been associated with this match for 16 years. None of the playing group have ever played in this match. Worth a lot, a little — or nothing at all? Time will tell.

    Ireland a week ago said they were ready — until the white-hot pressure of the occasion said they weren’t.

    • Patrick

      And I’m repeating myself but Tyson said “everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face”, which is basically what happened to the AB’s readiness for the occasion.

      • Richard Patterson

        Yes indeed. Out-thought, out-prepared, our-played. Credit where it is due.

        • Patrick

          In fairness it has been so long since anyone punched you in the face like that that you can be forgiven for not planning for that :)

        • Richard Patterson

          Perhaps Patrick. I don’t know an opponent who does not “get up” to play the All Blacks. I think they live with that threat with every match (and would not want it any other way). They got punched in the face in Perth and got up from it. This one will hurt more because there is no second chance. They’ll get up from this. They have no choice.

        • Patrick

          Agree with the conclusion but frankly no-one has gotten up for you guys like that in a long time.

        • Richard Patterson

          Ireland in Dublin last November?
          The Wallabies in Perth in August?

          On both occasions the All Blacks were without question the 2nd best team on the park.

        • Patrick

          Yes, but in neither case did you look as headless chook as you did on Saturday! And in neither case was the other team so relentless.

        • Richard Patterson

          Well I guess even more credit to England then Patrick. It is a match that will cause immense soul-searching within NZ Rugby.

        • Patrick

          Hopefully not!! The last deep soul-searching after 99 was rather too effective for my tastes ;)

  • Mike D

    The ABs have been successfully nullifying the dual open side system for about 4 years now. Pretty sure they’ll have that under control. They’ll also have watched all the footage and relised that no-one is policing the breakdown and barely noticing the offside line. I think it will go repeated ruck spoils by the ABs, Read holding back supporting players at every ruck, “flat” defence strangling the Poms’ backline and the Poms trying the same thing, but not quite as skilled or practised at it. Game breaks open with a piece of Beauden Barret magic off a rare turn over, dancing around tired forwards at the 70 minute mark. ABs “streaking” away with a 13 point to 9 win in a game featuring soak defence and penalty goals.

  • juswal

    Another successive cup title for NZ will be bad for the rugby world. The cup will be notionally theirs for evermore. We won’t build to a cup year asking ‘who’s in the best shape?’ — the question will always be ‘can NZ win another?’

    Even in the era when they were failing to win it, they were the focus of the build-up: ‘will they choke again?’

    We need their hegemony broken now. So as far as I’m concerned, this year it’s #anyonebutnz. Go England (spit). Go Leekeaters, go Boks.

    • Brendan Hume

      I don’t normally get upset at comments, but this is the biggest lot of shit I’ve heard in a long time. NZ have been the standard bearers in the game for basically it’s entire history, apart from a brief patch in the late 90s/early 00s. While it might be painful to lose to them for the past 17 years in Bledisloes, without them, the game of Rugby would be so much poorer. I’m not sure they will win this year – my money would be with the Springboks – but whatever the result, they’ll have deserved every bit of success they achieve. A great team, full of hard working, smart footy players that every team in the sport hopes to emulate.

      • juswal

        No need to get upset, bubba. my litte opinion isn’t worth it.

        I agree that if they win it, they’ll deserve it. That’s how sport works, after all. And they will have seen off the purported Northern Hemisphere revival since the last cup.

        I maintain that having any team win the world cup three times in a row is going to be bad for the game. Any team, not just the one that you love and admire.

        • Brendan Hume

          You’ll be waiting a long time if you’re waiting for an end to the All Blacks hegemony…

        • juswal

          Sigh. Hegemony in the world cup. That’s the topic.

          Idiot kiwis.

    • NSWelsham in London

      get where you are coming from but it could be like the Brazil football team of the late 50s, 60s and early 70s, they won 3 of the 4 world cups and they go into each tournament expected to make the final or win (at least within Brazil). Other teams will come good and if not USA will finally decide to pump money into the sport and then we are all screwed. 1/1000 of the population enjoying the game and playing it still has 309,000 people.

    • laurence king

      I don’t know if your right or wrong, but I just simply can’t go for the Poms. It’s just not right. lol

    • Hate that attitude.
      Don’t mind a wild card win but that ain’t England.

  • Human

    AB’s by 20 and going away.

  • Australians have been beaten by the Poms in recent years with their superior ‘scrum and kicking’ for penalties game.
    They like winning more than ‘playing’.
    I respect the size of their pack because its now mobile.
    I hate their kicking because they control the IRB and don’t care that the reward for penalties versus a try is a disgrace that favours the Northern Hemisphere.
    I want the AB’s to win because they live and breathe ” and can kick.
    They SHOULD be number one until we can match them.
    I’m old enough to remember two eras when they struggled against us.
    Given the absurd rule changes I know the PC brigade have infiltrated and Rugby as we know it is under enormous threat.
    As we’ve seen before these rules might just stop being enforced
    Go the All Blacks!

  • Ads

    Yes!!! Very happy with that result.

    • Custard Taht

      Fuck yeah! Absolutely brilliant by England.

      • laurence king

        Shocked, but well done England. Completely dominated the ABs imo

        • Custard Taht

          I am not shocked. I’ve said from the get go, the All Blacks are good team, but are not of the same vintage as the 2011 and 2015 versions. They have looked vulnerable all season, and England were one of the teams I thought could take advantage of it.

          Watching the Poms last night was a thing of beauty, took me back to the wallabies of the 90’s and reminded me of why I fell in love with Rugby as Yard Ape. That is the type of rugby Cheika should have been aiming for.

          I will doth my hat to;

          Eddie and England, well coached, great skills and great execution.

          Hansen and the Kiwis, tried their guts out, and were magnanimous in defeat, absolute class.

          Owens, great game from him, both teams came to play and he let the game flow.

        • Ads

          Would be good to get Eddie instead of Rennie.

        • laurence king

          It was interesting the way the AB forwards were bossed by the Pom forwards. That didn’t happen with our guys, ours just weren’t all that smart and made silly mistakes.

        • Ads

          I wasn’t that shocked either. The Blacks are always good, but have also been lucky with a number of calls (Reid not getting cited etc) going their way.

          Dunno if the poms will back up next week. I will be barracking for the Saffas I hope.

      • Keith Butler

        Still sort of recovering. Did not expect the win but by Christ that was the best England performance in many a year. EJ did his homework and the team delivered. Curry and Underhill have been a revelation and Itoje actually lived up to the media hype. Immense. The surprise for me though was Courtney Lawes. I’d always thought him to be a bit of a lightweight but EJ and Borthwick have turned him into a top class lock. Brodie Retallick certainly knows who he is now.

        • laurence king

          Congratulations Keith. It was a great win by England

        • Yowie

          Congratulations Keith – great stuff. My little fellow (6yo) was getting right into the England performance and began referring to the English team as “we/us” (etc.). I had to steer him away from that sort of heresy.

        • Keith Butler

          Need to break him of that habit. Support the Poms, heaven forbid.

        • Yowie

          As far as children go, he doesn’t whine excessively, so the disease doesn’t seem to be chronic.
          (but he does like fish & chips a lot and he sunburns easily… dammit)

        • Keith Butler

          I’d wean him onto some Toohey’s Old ASAP. Does me the world of good.

        • Yowie

          Good advice. Probably a bit young for him to have Coopers Best Extra Stout at 1.9 standard drinks per stubbie.

        • Keith Butler

          When my brother and I were 5 or 6 our gran introduced to the delights of Mackerson milk stout. Just a small glass before bed. Probably explains a lot.

        • Custard Taht

          Bundy Red, that will cure any un-Australianisms.

        • Yowie

          Yeah, but we don’t want him starting sh!t with the other Prep kids for no reason.

        • Patrick

          Brodie might not remember too much of that game :)

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