England’s defence coach Mike Ford has dismissed the try-laden Tri-Nations as not being proper Test rugby.
And Ford warned champions New Zealand to be prepared for a clash of styles and an “old-fashioned” showdown at Twickenham on Saturday.
Statistics released by the International Rugby Board this week showed the number of tries scored in the 2010 Tri-Nations increased by 100 per cent, with an average of 5.8 per match.
New Zealand were crowned champions without losing a game and even in defeat to Australia in Hong Kong last weekend, they scored three tries and 24 points.
But England are not interested in “exciting” rugby, with Ford drilling his players to stifle the All Blacks’ creative threat at source.
“There were three games in the Tri-Nations that produced an average of 77 points and that for me isn’t Test rugby,” said Ford.
“Even Saturday, which was a fantastic game, there were still 50 points scored.
“Everyone is talking about how many tries are going to be scored, how quick the rucks are and how exciting it is – but our job defensively is to work out a way to stop that.
“We’re pretty confident that we can do that.
“Our mentality has changed defensively. We have a ‘no excuse’ mentality. It’s never a case of us saying: ‘They’ve just scored one so we’ll go back and score one at the other end’.
“We want to make this a good, old-fashioned Test rugby game. Whatever you think that means, we know what it means. We’re pretty confident about what we can do defensively.
“When the players keep hearing about how exciting it is, deep down they will be putting the shutters up.
“They know that on Saturday, when we haven’t got the ball we are going to endeavour to produce one of the best defensive performances ever.”
England have tried to shut up shop against the All Blacks before to no avail.
On the summer tour of 2008, England reacted to losing the first Test 37-20 by dropping Charlie Hodgson and picking a midfield of Mike Tindall and Jamie Noon in an attempt to stop Ma’a Nonu.
When Ford is asked about how good a fly-half Dan Carter is, he always uses the example of that second Test and how quickly he spotted England’s new defensive pattern and tore it open.
Last November, England gave Ayoola Erinle his first Test start in another reactive selection simply to stop the powerful threat Nonu poses running from inside centre.
On Saturday, the former New Zealand rugby league international Shontayne Hape will fill the inside centre role, having made his Test debut against Australia in the summer.
But 12 months on from that failed Erinle experiment, Ford is convinced England have improved enough to put their plans into practice on this occasion.
On the summer tour to Australia, England responded to their first Test defeat by finding a way to shut down Quade Cooper, which went a long way to helping them snatch a 21-20 victory in Sydney.
The key for Ford’s plan is that England cannot afford to wait until next week to learn their lesson – they need to target All Blacks captain and openside flanker Richie McCaw.
“We’re miles in front of where we were this time last year,” he said.
“We’ve put things into place so we can hit the ground running on Saturday and make sure that everything comes to fruition.
“Richie McCaw is their talisman and it isn’t rocket science to work out that if we can negate his strengths and put him under pressure that it’s a big part of their game gone.
“If we can show that he does have weaknesses, it will go a long way to helping us win the game.”
♦♦ The England-New Zealand clash is at 16:30 SA time on Supersport.
♦♦ Springboks take on Ireland at 19:30 SA time.