|Rugby World Cup semi-final: England v New Zealand|
|Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama Date: Saturday, 26 October Kick-off: 09:00 BST|
|Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.|
England head coach Eddie Jones says he has “identified a number of areas” where his team selection can pressure New Zealand in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final.
Meanwhile, All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen believes England’s failure to get out of the pool stages four years ago “brings its own pressure”.
But how do the two sides compare head-to-head? BBC Radio 5 Live analyst and ex-England fly-half Paul Grayson has assessed some of the key tactical match-ups.
- England restore Ford-Farrell axis for All Blacks meeting
- New Zealand bring Scott Barrett in at blind-side flanker
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I would see it as a really even contest in the set-piece.
The scrums will not win and lose the game, but the props in open play will have an influence on the outcome.
The battle of the props and the hookers is almost a question not of who can scrum well, but who also add around the pitch.
England props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola are ball-handlers, while hooker Jamie George is a good runner. But you could say the same of the All Blacks front row.
I do not see a genuine advantage either way in the scrum but I do see that potentially England’s props might do more than New Zealand’s in the loose.
- Meet Steve Hansen – the man plotting England’s downfall
- The mullet haircut that has become the All Blacks’ World Cup mascot
Picking Scott Barrett, a lock, at blind-side flanker is a huge call from Hansen – and a brilliant one potentially.
I did not even consider it but it is his tactical opener.
England lock Courtney Lawes has now got a massive job on his hands.
New Zealand have got four genuine line-out options: Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read.
England have got two options: Lawes and Maro Itoje – maybe two and a half because Tom Curry might be able to win a line-out.
England have picked a team to play quick. But if you cannot win your set-piece and the All Blacks keep knocking the ball off the pitch then it is going to be really difficult.
The back row
As ball carriers the two number eights, Billy Vunipola and Kieran Read, cancel each other out but Read also brings ice-cold leadership and mental skills.
England flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill are awesome and suit the team England have picked. England will want to try and steal some ball and create quick ball, which those two will be able to do at the ruck given that Scott Barrett is usually a second row. What you gain in the line-out, you lose a bit at the breakdown.
Ardie Savea is a superb athlete, but I think England edge it in the back row if they can win enough ball. But can they win enough ball with the pack that New Zealand have picked?
Half-backs are two plus one. There is nine, 10 and then there is another.
For New Zealand, it is nine Aaron Smith, 10 Richie Mo’unga and then there is Beauden Barrett at 15. For England, it is scrum-half Ben Youngs, fly-half George Ford and Owen Farrell at 12.
England went to shut Australia out with a defensive wall in the quarter-final. With Ford recalled at fly-half, this is a team picked to both play with the ball and kick quite a lot, with full kicking options in terms of Ford, Farrell and a bit of Elliot Daly.
You would definitely pick Smith over Youngs. Mo’unga and Barrett v Ford and Farrell is a tight one, but there is a bit of extra leadership from Farrell.
It is almost even but Smith edges it New Zealand’s way.
New Zealand have an ability to create players who do the most basic things unbelievably well. That is what their centres do.
Anton Lienert-Brown is a physical ball-carrier with good feet. Jack Goodhue makes no mistakes apart from his haircut.
But Manu Tuilagi is a different level physically when he is in the right mood and Farrell has a game-changing mindset so England win in the centres because they will have more influence on the game than the Kiwi pair.
The back three
The All Blacks find a player for the ages and two weeks later they replace him with another one.
George Bridge and Sevu Reece – nobody knew who they were. Now they are two of the best wings in the world in the blink of an eye.
But Reece has never been tested. He plays for the All Blacks – he generally gets the ball in space and does some wonderful things with it, so he is unproven.
All Blacks full-back Beauden Barrett is other-worldly as a rugby player, though.
For England, Elliot Daly is a slight concern. He is fantastic in attack but being the last line of defence is not one of his strengths.
Wing Anthony Watson has been a revelation after an Achilles injury. He seems to be the same player as he was before, which is remarkable.
So in terms of who wins in the back three, it is a draw – but with the caveat that Barrett is awesome.
Who can be a game-changer? In the backs, New Zealand scrum-half TJ Perenara and centre Sonny Bill Williams do it for me.
Dane Coles has sort of rewritten the rulebook on how hookers play – he makes breaks like backs. Luke Cowan-Dickie is an excellent ball-runner but he is not Dane Coles.
In the front row, England’s Joe Marler and Dan Cole are two dump trucks who will come on and potentially destroy a scrum late in the game.
When both teams are getting tired, could England ripping New Zealand’s scrum apart be the turning point? Potentially.
In terms of the back row, Mark Wilson has played no rugby in this World Cup. He has replaced Lewis Ludlam, who has been awesome, but Wilson is hard as nails – he brings more experience all round. New Zealand’s Sam Cane is probably a better player, but I like the energy that Wilson brings.
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I do not think either Jones or Hansen has been tested in this World Cup yet.
Jones got selection for the quarter-final spot-on, as proven by England’s performance. Now, England’s surprise is that they have spun their half-backs back to Ford and Farrell starting together, which is bold.
The All Blacks announcing their team selection first with Scott Barrett in the back row could prove to be a tactical masterstroke by Hansen.
Hansen is the smarter coach. He has taken two-time World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett and said, “actually fly-half is not your best position, go and play at full-back”.
It has changed the way that they play their game and I think that that is just genius.
I would always favour the coach who is slightly more reserved, less provocative, but also quite stinging with some of his comments.
Paul Grayson was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.
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