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England's approach divides critics
Tom Hamilton in Auckland
June 9, 2014
England's Geoff Parling loses in the lineout to Sam Whitelock, New Zealand v England, Eden Park, Auckland, June 7, 2014
England's pace at getting to the lineout has been criticised by the local press © Getty Images
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Just when you thought everyone was going to get along nicely and England were earning the respect they deserve on New Zealand soil, an article in the New Zealand Herald goes and questions that illusion.

They have previous. Describing Kyle Eastmond and Freddie Burns as second-choice club players was a little harsh as was the labelling of Danny Cipriani as a "dud" but now England have been accused of taking NFL tactics and applying them to rugby.

An article, titled 'Huddle, chat, stutter - it's a painfully dismal way to play', took umbrage with what is called England's "go-slow strategy", something which was deemed to save their oxygen and help keep up with the pace of the All Blacks. It was also penned: "Their athletes, as the bumps, lumps and wobbly bits in their super tight jerseys revealed, are crafted with a different game plan in mind."

When asked about it on Monday, England coach Mike Catt straight-batted the question: "I was unaware of it at the time. That's somebody's opinion and the first I've heard of it". But while the England camp stayed quiet, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen was a bit more open on the matter post-match on Saturday.

"They had obviously asked the ref if they could have a chat before they had their lineouts and he agreed to it so we have just got to adapt and adjust to the game. There is no point in us pointing a stick at the ref or the tactics of that particular part of the play. But, yeah, it does get frustrating because you want to play a game that challenges people aerobically."

To put the last part into perspective, while some of the walks to the lineout might have been a touch more methodical than usual, England ran more metres with ball in hand than the All Blacks (361 vs 311) and made three more clean breaks.

Despite that criticism, the general consensus over here is that England are a better side than previously thought. One article has even gone as far as saying "the killer touch was missing but England rumbled so impressively at times over Eden Park that it is easy to see them lining up for next year's World Cup in pole position to win the crown". Next weekend's Test is already bubbling nicely.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
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