By Mitch Phillips
(Reuters) – If there is one man in the England squad who should have the inside track on how to beat New Zealand it is scrumhalf Ben Youngs, who managed it in 2012, alongside his brother, after their father had done the same in 1983.
Given England’s extraordinarily poor record against the All Blacks – seven wins in 41 games and only one in the last 16 – it is an unusual family pedigree and something to seize on ahead of Saturday’s World Cup semi-final.
Dad Nick, also a scrumhalf, played in the 15-9 win of 36 years ago while the sons – Ben and hooker Tom – were on duty for the memorable 38-21 triumph of 2012 – both at Twickenham.
So is beating the All Blacks was part of the family DNA?
“The old man did it. Maybe? I don’t know, we’ll see,” Ben said on Wednesday, adding that it was helpful that so many of the England squad had been involved in the British and Irish Lions drawn series of 2017.
“Having that experience of playing them helps, having that experience of winning helps,” he said.
Ben is in line for his 94th England cap on Saturday, while brother Tom’s last international appearance came in the 2015 World Cup
Like most players the world over, however, he has far more experience of losing against the sport’s most dominant team, having done so seven times.
Last November England were on fire as they led 15-0 but got pegged back to lose 16-15 – the only time the teams have met since Eddie Jones took over as England coach.
“They kept coming back,” he said. “What you learn is the importance of how error-free you have to be and you saw that again at the weekend — a couple of Irish mistakes and they are down at the other end scoring.
“It’s about staying engaged and never clocking off. For me they are the most dangerous team in the world at punishing you. Then they are physical. I don’t think they get enough credit for how physical they are.”
Another reason why England could not get themselves back into the lead a year ago was that they lost five lineouts in the second-half – their worst showing for seven years.
Most of the people involved in that set-piece on both sides will be facing up again on Saturday, with England conscious of how New Zealand beefed up their jumping power with the addition of a third lock for most of the second half.
Brodie Retallick was England’s chief tormentor that day, and England’s forwards coach Steve Borthwick holds him in the highest regard.
“He’s a fantastic player, he has the ability to carry, tackle, is excellent in the set piece and is a smart player,” said England’s former captain and fellow-lock.
Borthwick, however, said there were no special plans to combat him or the prospect of a similar blitz, saying: “Of course you look at the analysis and factor that in to your game plan but our outlook is to focus on our team’s strength.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips; editing by Richard Pullin)