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Your country's game plan for the World Cup

Every Time Ref

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As the world cup approaches, naturally there is more and more analysis, debate and often downright arguing on here. It’s great to get so many different points of view from people from all the major nations and several of the smaller ones too, and I’m sure that’ll continue throughout the tournament (mixed in with a solid handful of signed-up-this-morning trolls looking for a fight about a sport they also watched four years ago, but that’s life … ).

However, it occurred to me that the majority of the discussion focuses on selection issues and individual players - understandable, especially given the squads have only recently been announced, but I thought it would be interesting to get some discussion going on each time at a more "macro" level, so I want to hear what you think your team’s gameplan is. How they will approach the game, which areas are strengths they will focus on, which areas are weaknesses and how they will try to mitigate that, how they will attack, how they will defend, how they will kick, and anything else you think relevant or interesting. Obviously this can’t be separated entirely from selection and naturally will link in to discussion of individual players’ strength and weaknesses but the idea of the thread is to discuss the teams in general, not to get bogged down in “who is the better out of X and Y†debates - we have plenty of them all over the site.

So, my take on England:

In attack, we have moved away from our traditional set-piece-dominated game. In the backs we can be very exciting, although like any team we do need good ball for that and the quality of our ball does vary wildly from game to game. George Ford likes to play very close to the gainline with runners off him and when it’s going well he holds defences and creates space and we look very dangerous. After a couple of phases going forward, once we earn the right to go wide we have some real pace and class in the outside backs, although as we saw on Saturday a worrying tendency to waste chances sometimes. In the backs we are starting to use more and more out-the-back passes (like Bath's "diamond formation") to hold defenders and create wide space. We do not ruck particularly well, and often when we get beaten this is a key feature of the game - we struggle to clear out jackals and quickly secure our own ball.

In defence, we focus much more on spreading out and tackling than attacking the rucks and competing for the ball - I think too much so sometimes, but it does play to our strengths as we are well-organised defensively and strong in the tackle. I rarely feel there are big holes in the England defence, although the reliance on tackle-tackle-tackle rather than competing at the breakdown means once under pressure we often struggle to win the ball back, and therefore give away badly-judged penalties.

Our kicking game for me is the big worry. Farrell is probably a better tactical kicker than Ford, but this is one of those areas which for me is not just about the individuals. Our tactics in terms of kicking seem to me incredibly naive - basically, we just kick deep to the back three and back our defence. On good days this isn’t too much of a problem, on bad days it just amounts to giving the ball back to the opposition and letting them attack us again and again and again. A good kicking game gives a team the chance to turn the momentum around, either by kicking intelligently to space, pressurising the return kick and making a net gain in metres, or by putting it high and challenging for it. We don’t really do either; when we do go for a Garryowen, our chase is nearly always very poor. Apart from Mike Brown we don’t have anyone in the side who is really good in the air going forward (i.e., regathering their own ball). I predict that England's’ exit from the World Cup will come to a team which beats us in the kicking game.

Set piece is another worry - from a traditional strength our scrum seems to have gone to pot in the warm ups, and I don’t know why - any analysis from members of the front row union would be gratefully received. I do know all the second rows in the squad are relatively lightweight, I'm sure the lack of grunt has an impact on the scrum being shaky. The lineout is also looking pretty worrying, I suspect good teams will kick to touch and attack us there. We haven’t consistently been getting good quality ball from the lineout for some time now, and I think it’s too late to do anything about it. At this point, realistically I think the best we can aim for is what we got on Saturday - winning most of our own ball pretty scrappily.

Strengths: Defensive structure, forwards playing off ten, attacking wide on with good ball

Weaknesses: Kicking, set piece, competing for the ball on the floor, turning dominance into points, consistency of performance

So that’s my take on us, I’m sure there’s plenty I’ve missed, it’s even possible I’ve said some stuff that is misguided or even utterly retarded! Anyway, let’s hear everyone else’s take on their own or someone else’s country.
 

Mcfadden

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I've tried to blend in some of what I think you'll see from the All Blacks with my concerns and contentment. I'm sure members like Nick or Larksea will give something more accurate and comprehensive

It's clear with the inclusion of Nehe Milner Skudder and Waisake Naholo that Steve Hansen wants to A) Stay true to the All Blacks exciting brand of rugby, which is heavily reliant on attack and counter-attack rather than laborious or defensive tactics and B) keep teams guessing (most teams won't know much about these two). I actually had an entire paragraph dedicated to this, but I'm going to take it out to avoid the X vs Y player thing you talked about. But from a team perspective, put it this way, both of them are game changers. When there's a complete lull in the second half, you could give the ball to one of these guys and boom - you either score or gain extremely good yardage. So while the game plan will be more tight in the knockout games, I think the ABs will still try to utilize their natural game of exciting running rugby. Not just necessarily kick for territory every couple of minutes.

In my opinion, our tackling needs to be better. Australia played very well in Sydney, but my goodness we missed some easy tackles. The stats will tell you that the All Blacks actually tackled the best in the Rugby Championship. McCaw and Read were the two top tacklers individually. But as a collective effort, missing 23 and 28 tackles is not good enough for the best team in the world. And it's partially why we lost the trophy this year. If there is one area I admire the English in the last couple of games it's been their defensive efforts. Tackle success rates in the 90 percent range. I'd like to aim for that. I also think our ruck success rate could improve. As a few other kiwi posters have noted in other threads; we don't turn the ball over as much as we use to. Wouldn't mind an emphasis on getting numbers to the breakdown as fast as we can. If Chekia plays Hooper and Pocock together again, this will be essential. To be brutally honest, I thought at times in the RC we looked very old-manish. So unless we plan on playing McCaw and Cane together (which I heavily doubt) then the whole unit needs to be a bit more competitive and quick at the rucks.

I actually think the All Blacks have kept a few tricks up their sleeves for this world cup, like most teams probably have. I'd keep an eye on the set piece. Hansen is a very intelligent guy, he has a pretty clear sense of what catches teams out. If the ABs get to the knock out games, and they will definitely get to the quarters, keep an eye on the line out. In 2011 we had the teabag from Tony Woodcock, this year we had Cody Taylor and Richie McCaw link up to catch the Springboks out in a similar move that Samoa did to SA and it worked.

The All Blacks have done well on restarts over the years. Dan Carter is very good at placing a well weighted kick and it's usually a guy like Kerian Read who does the tremendous follow up work. If a team scores against the All Blacks, my expectation would be that New Zealand would strike back very soon afterwards. Much like the Crusaders use to do in their hay day. I think that's an area that the ABs do better than a lot of other teams. When the opposition scores, we don't coil into a shell. It's an 80 minute game, and the ABs recognize that. But by the same token, I also would like to see the ABs make better starts on the score board. Playing catch up rugby like we have over the past few years is just too risky in the knock out stages. It smells too much like 2007. Also speaking of kicks, I think you'll see a few cross-field kicks from Carter or Barrett in the world cup. It's another area I think we do very well and can think on our feet quickly. Carter especially has very good control over a game and can sum up a situation well. My only worry here is the first 20 minutes of the Eden Park test - where Carter kicked FAR too much. Luckily in that test, the frequency of kicking subsided.

The All Blacks have the most comprehensive offloading game that I have seen, and when it comes off it's brilliant, but towards the semi final and final I wouldn't mind if they substituted that push-pass for more patience. If it's on, yeah, go for it. But don't compromise golden possession for trying to be too fancy and cute.

Strengths: Restarts, intelligent set piece moves, clean breaks, exciting attack and counter attack rugby, aggression
Weaknesses: Slow starts, tackling, patience, turning the ball over at the ruck, speed of getting to the ruck
 
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Chistera

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France

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Toulouse

France:

Up front: Give the ball to Picamoles
Back: Pass it twice to Bastareaud/Fofana -for a good old crash ball- and then have Tillous-Borde box-kicking the ball 20m forward.

I'm not even being sarcastic, sadly, I just don't see much more to our game. England at SDF was our only dominant game (for 70 mins...) in four years and Scotland yesterday (against an oppen who isn't, as 2 weeks ago, playing its worst rugby since 2011) proved that we really haven't miraculously progressed from a team in shambles to a cohesive team with comprehensive game plan. I haven't seen France's backs play a ambitious combination in ages - as England's one that led to their 2nd try at Twickenham.
 

Every Time Ref

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England

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Bath

France:

Up front: Give the ball to Picamoles
Back: Pass it twice to Bastareaud/Fofana -for a good old crash ball- and then have Tillous-Borde box-kicking the ball 20m forward.

I'm not even being sarcastic, sadly, I just don't see much more to our game. England at SDF was our only dominant game (for 70 mins...) in four years and Scotland yesterday (against an oppen who isn't, as 2 weeks ago, playing its worst rugby since 2011) proved that we really haven't miraculously progressed from a team in shambles to a cohesive team with comprehensive game plan. I haven't seen France's backs play a ambitious combination in ages - as England's one that led to their 2nd try at Twickenham.

I thought the French team would be the hardest - it's basically impossible to see a sensible game plan most of the time. I guess you'll hope to smash most side at scrumtime.

The All Blacks have done well on restarts over the years. Dan Carter is very good at placing a well weighted kick and it's usually a guy like Kerian Read who does the tremendous follow up work.

I agree with that, I forgot to mention restarts as the "third set piece" in my analysis. We have generally been very week, rarely winning the ball back. The chase was good against Ireland, but only in the sense of tackling them as soon as they caught it, we still don't pressurise the catcher to win it back.

I also would like to see the ABs make better starts on the score board. Playing catch up rugby like we have over the past few years is just too risky in the knock out stages. It smells too much like 2007.

I agree, that is a worrying habit for you guys. It only needs to go wrong once, one team finds a way to effectively counter the either side of halftime surge and you're out the tournament
 

Le Frére Alpha

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Kick... Chase... Tackle... Ruck... Intensity... Repeat.
 

Chistera

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France

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Toulouse

I thought the French team would be the hardest - it's basically impossible to see a sensible game plan most of the time. I guess you'll hope to smash most side at scrumtime.

Intersting stat for France from L'Equipe. Under Saint-Andre, it sems that the less we pass the ball, the better the result.
Since the 2011 WC, every time we've passed the ball under 120 times, we've won 8 out of 14 games, and every time we've passed the ball over 120 times we've won 8 out of 23 games.
That's 57% VS 34% of victories. Hail possesion-less, pick-and-go, counterattacking rugby.
 

TRF_Olyy

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By any. Means. Necessary.

boys28tn.jpg
 

Umaga's Witness

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We will try and score tries, even in knockout games. I think Steve knows that when players get too nervous the free flowing rugby spirit diminishes. This happened in our last game of each of the last 3 world cups - France (too close for comfort, could have lost), France (lost), Australia (lost). He wants to counter this not by having crafty players who need to use their head and work as a team to make things happen on attack (because these things don't happen when they're nervous), but by having players who can create something out of nothing. Only by scoring more tries can you really guarantee a win.

We will kick a lot, but only kick for wins. keep turning the big boys around.

the scrum is a weakness. It hasn't really been dominant for a long time, but usually we manage to do enough for it not to be an issue. i'm not so sure this will continue. hopefully they'll be working on it quite a bit, especially considering we left our best scrummager behind.

missing easy tackles is a big weakness. when we lose its often because we miss easy tackles. like the 2 read missed against the wallabies. or the hundred everyone missed against england a few years back.

that's all for now.
 
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Umaga's Witness

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Their game plan is basically Jake White with smaller players and I'm pretty sure Schmidt will look at supersizing things next 6N.
This is not how they play against the ABs. Ireland seem to adjust their game plan quite a bit depending o the opposition
 

MLB3BB2

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USA:

Build an unassailable lead before subbing out the front row, because there's no depth there.

Ok, that won't work, but the scrum is vastly improved so long as the first-choice props (Fry and Lamositele) are on the field. The Eagles are actually looking like a real rugby team perhaps for the first time, with a big part of that coming from having a set of 7 matches over the summer as well as the influx of new talent. No wins at the RWC would be a disappointment, one would be good, and two would be historic. So the USA need to target their 1st and last matches (Samoa and Japan, respectively) for their strongest squads and performances. Then they need to play good fundamental rugby on both sides of the ball, minimize mistakes and keep out of the sin bin. They need to stress their strengths such as attacking runs (from the half backs and getting the ball to Palamo, Manoa, Durutalo, Wyles and Scully) and keeping the ball in hand rather than kicking it away too quickly. And when they do break through on a run or kick they really need to improve their support runs if they're going to score tries. I think they'd do well to let the left-footed Wyles take shots at goal from the far right with the right-footed MacGinty taking the others.
 

Peat

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This is not how they play against the ABs. Ireland seem to adjust their game plan quite a bit depending o the opposition

New Zealand haven't played Ireland recently though. The first year of Schmidt's rein was reasonably enterprising, but losing their functioning centre pairing made Ireland pretty darn negative, and they've barely adjusted their game plan all year after. Maybe Henshaw and Payne are finally ready to start playing rugby, but I'm not holding my breath.
 

GoTheNaki

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If Nonu plays like crap, then Carter will be exposed like he was when he had SBW in at 2nd..

So their goal, I think, will be to keep Nonu on form and don't have him disappear in games for extended periods of time. With Nonu not playing, I didn't like the Hurricanes chances, and if Nonu gets injured, I don't like the ABs'.
 

TRF_stormer2010

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Meyer likes a kicking game. Too bad our current halves and 15 are near useless at tactical kicking. So I guess our game plan can be called Is-Fourie-du-Preez-fit?

Our main strength will probably be a monster pack which we havn't had for 1 1/2 years now but with everyone set to be fit again we might come back from our horror run to push for a ***le.. I hope.

TBF between Pollard, De Allende, Kriel and Le Roux we can stretch defenses ball in hand but all of them have some way to go still to be called 'complete' players; which sadly is what you need for a RWC.
 
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TRF_heineken

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Meyer likes a kicking game. Too bad our current halves and 15 are near useless at tactical kicking. So I guess our game plan can be called Is-Fourie-du-Preez-fit?

Our main strength will probably be a monster pack which we havn't had for 1 1/2 years now but with everyone set to be fit again we might come back from our horror run to push for a ***le.. I hope.

TBF between Pollard, De Allende, Kriel and Le Roux we can stretch defenses ball in hand but all of them have some way to go still to be called 'complete' players; which sadly is what you need for a RWC.

I tend to disagree a bit with you here.

Fourie Du Preez, Rudy Paige, Morne Steyn, Pat Lambie and Zane Kirchner are all pretty good with regard to tactical kicking.
As for our pack, yes, we're not as monstrous as we once were, but we sure as hell will be one of the fittest and we are still big.
 

TRF_stormer2010

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I tend to disagree a bit with you here.

Fourie Du Preez, Rudy Paige, Morne Steyn, Pat Lambie and Zane Kirchner are all pretty good with regard to tactical kicking.
As for our pack, yes, we're not as monstrous as we once were, but we sure as hell will be one of the fittest and we are still big.

I agree on those highlighted players (and of course FdP as I mentioned in my post) but will they / should they start ahead of Pienaar, Pollard and Le Roux who have been the encumbants under Meyer? I am leaning towards, yes, it'd be better to have the better kickers in for the knock-out rounds but we can only speculate on what Meyer's considerations might be and his selections the last 2 years point towards Pienaar/Pollard/Le Roux.

Our pack is good enough. We've been missing (on and off or for the entire period in the case of Alberts and PSdT) all of Etzebeth, PSdT, Alberts, Louw and Vermeulen for long periods of time while both Du Plessis brothers have been in terrible form until just now. We've effectively played with no more than 50% of our 1st choice pack for 2 years now and then there's been form issues as well. They are all in line for starts now along with FdP. Literally, our stars are aligning. The only question is will the get up to speed in time for the kock-out rounds (I think its a reasonable assumption we'll get there).
 
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