October 23, 2019 / 5:56 AM / a month ago

England must look to smother New Zealand, says Mehrtens

(Reuters) - England must abandon thoughts of providing a spectacle when they face New Zealand in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final and opt for an effective style that may not be easy on the eyes, former All Blacks flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens has said.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - England Training - Arcs Urayasu Park, Urayasu, Chiba, Japan - October 22, 2019 England's Ben Youngs with team mates during training REUTERS/Matthew Childs

England face the holders at Yokohama hoping to improve their record of seven wins in 41 meetings, and Mehrtens believes Eddie Jones’s men can prevail with a simple plan.

"There's no rocket science behind this mission. It doesn't matter how the points come. Don't get sucked into playing better rugby, play more effective rugby," Mehrtens who played 70 times for New Zealand, wrote here in The Times newspaper.

“How do you do that? You slow them down at the tackle ... you build yourself up for a massive defensive effort to come up fast and smack them in multiple tackles and not let them go forward.

“They will have the ball ... but England, through their line speed must take away the value of their possession ... the better plan has to be to stop them from getting (the ball).”

Mehrtens said England would have to swap fluidity for a tactically sound effort when they have the ball.

“What are England’s comparative strengths? You want to slow up the game. You want to play set piece to set piece. That’s what the All Blacks don’t like,” Mehrtens said.

“Beat them up and smother them. While it may get called ‘smothering’, no one cares if it works ... this is not about providing a spectacle. It is about getting results.

“England should try to maul a lot; drag them in. I’m not sure Billy Vunipola is at his energetic best at the moment, but the All Blacks would respect the locks, particularly Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes.”

England will also have to think carefully about their kicking game, Mehrtens said.

“Ben Youngs shouldn’t be box-kicking so much because that brings the danger of giving possession back again,” he said.

“Yes, kick on Beauden Barrett; England can pressurise him because if you put the high ball up on him and you get there at the same time, even if he wins the ball, you know he’s not still there in the back line for the next phase.

“The defensive line can’t really hold back, so that kick in behind the number 12 and the number 13, with Elliot Daly and Jonny May running on to it, should be effective.”

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates

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