All Blacks could 'cut to pieces' England in November
England could be "cut to pieces" by the All Blacks if the touted super-test in November eventuates.
That's the view of former England and Lions first-five Stuart Barnes as he surveyed the aftermath of England's costly Six Nations loss to Ireland.
Barnes, an unashamed admirer of the All Blacks, felt if England used the narrow defensive channels they did in Dublin, they would be taken apart by New Zealand.
Talk of the All Blacks taking on England rather than the British Barbarians on their end of year tour north in November continues to swirl.
There appears a hunger – and plenty of money – for the No 1 and No 2 teams from opposite sides of the equator to clash earlier than their scheduled meeting late next year.
Barnes clearly feels England have a bit of work to do to make gains in a record that sees New Zealand losing just one of their last 16 tests against the men in white. The Dublin disaster had emphasised that.
"Ireland lack the firepower out wide to punish opponents of England's class with tries but if the much-touted game with New Zealand takes place in the autumn, England will be cut to pieces if they defend with the same pattern as we saw in Dublin," Barnes wrote in his piece in the Sunday Times.
"England were continuously caught napping in open play. When England watched the Ireland defeat by Wales they would have seen a side playing a narrow band of driving rugby, bruising to defend against but short of imagination and variety.
"England narrowed their own defensive channels and the net result was that Ireland outflanked them, sometimes with what appeared ridiculous ease. Elliot Daly was exposed as Keith Earls dashed down the touchline, in acres of room."
Barnes felt Eddie Jones had been out-coached by Ireland's New Zealand mentor Joe Schmidt.
"Whereas England had nothing new to offer, Ireland had flipped around their game and England were made to look tactically second best, at times almost naïve.
"It was a reminder that, for all the achievements under his reign, Jones is not the only coach of the highest quality operating in this hemisphere.
"Players win and lose games, Jones and Schmidt insist as much, but the players go out with some sort of plan to put into effect. Put simply, Ireland had a superior plan, and on the day the superior coach.
"Twice in this Six Nations tournament, Jones has been outsmarted - the bewilderment about what to do against the Italian tactics being the other occasion.
"Jones and his team have fallen just short of the greatness he urged his team to grasp."
That last line was in reference to England failing to win back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams and also failing to break the 18-all deadlock they share with the All Blacks for a world record run of consecutive tier one test wins.
Ireland had ended the All Blacks remarkable run in Chicago late last year and proved the stumbling block for England in Dublin.
"And so England could not take the final step that eluded the team by which Eddie Jones measures everything - New Zealand. Ireland did to the men in white what they managed against the All Blacks," Barnes wrote in the Sunday Times.
"What was disappointing for the England manager is that Ireland did not have to take their game to the stratospheric levels they had achieved at Soldier Field in Chicago.
"The Irish inspiration with ball in hand was not on display, although the quality of their defence was exceptional."
England will have to stew over this loss without a rematch with Ireland for another year.
The All Blacks, Barnes noted, had the opportunity to make amends almost immediately and did so with an exclamation mark.
"New Zealand avenged that defeat a fortnight later. It was the brutal side of the All Blacks; the beautiful stuff was left in the locker-room," Barnes wrote, acknowledging the ability of the All Blacks and their coaches, to adapt.