All Blacks consistency to outdo England: Guscott
October 11, 2013
Owen Farrell was instrumental in England's win over the All Blacks last year, but is has no guarantee of a spot this Test © PA Photos
Guscott wrote in The Rugby Paper that after seeing the Rugby Championship decider against South Africa he wondered what chance England had of beating the All Blacks again next month. "Last autumn England beat them in one of the best games I've ever seen England play. It was a near all round performance, one that if we are brutally honest the team haven't come close to matching since," Guscott said.
Guscott wondered how the English could fall from those heights to nearly losing to Italy and then being outgunned in the Six Nations decider. "If anything the players will have been better prepared and more experienced, yet they couldn't back up the performance of four months earlier.
"If you've done it once, why don't you want to keep on doing it? Why do you suddenly stop putting in performances like that?"
While the All Blacks were No.1 in the world, England had a formula to beat them and having done it once they should be able to do it again, he said. "The big difference being between the best, and the consistently best - i.e. New Zealand - is their ability to mentally tune-in to perform under the extreme pressure and expectation," he wrote.
And when New Zealand replaced a player through injury or form, the incoming player fitted in like clockwork. England by comparison had players available at first and second fives who played completely different styles.
"Expecting a team to be consistent and effective when you have big differences in style, approach and mentality is pie in the sky. New Zealand have a much more effective pattern than England, and everyone else, because whether, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden or Beauden Barrett play fly-half, the pattern is pretty much the same, even though each of them might execute it slightly differently.
"The differences in the playing styles of the top teams in the Aviva Premiership make it very difficult every time the England squad go into camp - whereas in New Zealand, with a more centralised system, and all the provincial coaches using the All Black pattern, it is much easier," he said.
It was in selecting a side to take on the All Blacks next month that England's coaches faced big problems in the personnel decisions to play a game capable of upsetting the All Blacks again. And there was no guarantee that one of the key performers in that win, Owen Farrell, would be included in this year's side.
Guscott wondered if whoever was chosen could reach the heights of last year against an All Black team which had put five tries past the Springboks on Ellis Park.
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year
With just two rounds left in the 2014 championship, the intensity cranks up a notch at Twickenham. Tom Hamilton previews the weekend's action
"I had a perfect record against England as did a few other Welshmen. England always seemed to bring the best out of us." John Taylor on the age-old rivalry
Are the margins between the teams in the Six Nations getting smaller year-on-year? Huw Richards gives some answers