Courtney Lawes says England are a 'really strong defensive team'; who seek to build an attack using kicks in the air. Photo: Shutterstock/Andrew Fosker
It's rugby's version of the culture wars. To hit or not to hit, or, as in the case of Italy, to take or not to take.
Adopting the image of a smug, self-righteous liberal in the debate, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster took aim at what he called a “stop-start” in Ireland's 13-8 win over the Springboks, as well as poor playing time. . “You saw a different spectacle tonight,” Foster said with a great deal of self-interest after his team thrashed Italy 96-17. “And at some point the world will have to decide which game it would rather watch.”
The bad news for the All Blacks is that not everyone will start playing exactly the way they want, just because they would be better off if opposition teams copied Italy's policy of optional tackling. Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, among thousands of other social media users, was quick to point out that the ball was in play for just two minutes in the All Blacks' minnow throw in a barrel drill, which few would have thought was a better spectacle than the titanic clash in Ireland.
England flanker Courtney Lawes approaches the debate from a different angle. As the standard-bearer for Northampton Saints, who are stylistically closest to the All Blacks in the Premier League, Laws appreciates the ability to play fast and loose, even if England's horizons are considerably more limited. In his opinion, the beauty of the World Cup is that it is the perfect testing ground for determining which style is best.
“I love that it's now really obvious what each team's DNA is and what they're trying to do.” Laws said. “All top teams have very different team genetics, team strategy, if you like. Once they play each other, it will be interesting to see how it develops.
“I think it’s very beneficial for us as players to see that and be a part of it. Fans will also be pleased to see this spectacle. The Ireland-South Africa and France-New Zealand matches on the first night of the World Cup have huge implications for the game. Each team has its own strategy, DNA and style of play, and it’s very nice to see.”
After three largely aimless years under Eddie Jones since the 2019 World Cup, in which the team went from wanting to be the 'greatest team of all time' to wanting to play without shirt numbers, England now at least have a clear identity under Steve Borthwick , even if he is unlikely to win Foster's approval.
“Our way is England's way”
“We’re a really strong defensive team,” Laws said. “This is our backbone. We conceded one try in three matches. We are an aerial team and we are very good at getting the ball back. We're looking to build an attack around that and hopefully by the time we get to the end of the tournament we want to be where we want to be and we'll show a little bit of a different side.”
< p>This is the fourth. World Cup for Lowes and he has experienced the full gamut of emotions, from the high of the finals in 2019 to the low of exiting the pool in 2015 and the embarrassment of the ill-fated 2011 campaign. What sets this England team apart, the 34-year-old says, is the team's dedication, which he says is epitomized by prop Dan Cole.
“You've probably been watching Coley the whole game, just knocking down rucks and forcing us to pass the ball quickly,” Laws said. “This is an example of a man who is so selfless, he's not worried about any glory, he's just doing his job, he wants to go out on the field, tackle well, rip well and make sure our breakdown happens as quickly as possible, May be. And then, in defense, he is going to kill people. He is a shining example of someone who will do his part, that cog in the chain that leads to a try or a good win against Argentina.
“Our way is England's way. By doing it our way, we do it for each other. Especially in 2019, and this time, from the players' point of view, we have become much more dedicated. We want to play, we want to go out there and put our bodies on the line for each other and that's what really matters, when it hits the fan and you're under the rug, you have to have the desire to get into it. for each other, otherwise you will be quickly recognized. This is one of the main things that needs to be removed, and this time we got it again.”