There’s still one more dig for the All Blacks at this World Cup – the game no one really cares for – but you may not be ready to move on from the semifinal defeat just yet. Here we tackle a few lingering questions from the crushing Cup exit at the hands of Eddie Jones’ England.
Where did it all go wrong in Yokohama?
Defensively the All Blacks allowed England to dominate.
One of their main failings, particularly in the first half, was not getting set quick enough or coming off the line fast enough.
England’s big ball carriers had to be confronted head-on.
Instead, the All Blacks sat back on their heels and allowed England to come at them with pace.
This lack of line speed allowed England to build momentum, build consistent go forward and gain fast ruck ball.
The poor start snowballed from there.
Back-to-back lineout errors stunted that platform. England then smothered the All Blacks maul and breakdown.
On attack, the All Blacks were too predictable.
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Too often they threw passes deep behind two forwards who unsuccessfully tried to block inside defenders.
The All Blacks also had few support players to offload to, and too few cleaners winning the races against English defenders, which left them vulnerable to turnovers.
Tactically the All Blacks didn’t adjust.
Their playmakers couldn’t get around the midfield rush, couldn’t identify space with their kicking game, and even when they did make breaks like Brodie Retallick’s after inside offloads from Richie Mo’unga and Scott Barrett, they failed to execute by holding onto the pass too long.
Expectations for the All Blacks’ superior fitness to run over England didn’t eventuate, either.
Three of England’s best – Tom Curry, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola – all played 80 minutes.
Were the All Blacks fortunate not to lose by more?
Yes. While there can be no arguments with England’s two disallowed tries, in the end, they didn’t need either.
Sam Underhill’s try was a clear obstruction but, on another day, the TMO may miss the accidental offside call which involved England fumbling the ball forward in the maul before Ben Youngs sold his dummy to score.
The try was scrubbed out, which pegged the margin back to 10-0 instead of 17-0 at half time, but that should not excuse the defensive blunder where the All Blacks drifted to leave the gaping hole for Youngs.
England also missed six points off the boot – one dropped goal, one penalty.
The final 19-7 scoreline certainly flattered the All Blacks.
Unlikely. It’s fine to sit in the Smith should have replaced Jordie Barrett camp or be on the Laumape would have broken the line more wagon.
Each argument has merits, sure.
The reality, though, is issues started and finished up front for the All Blacks.
Without front foot-ball, even the best backs struggle.
Did inexperience hurt?
Possibly. Leaving Sam Cane and Dane Coles, both leaders in their own right, on the bench was a gamble of sorts that did not pay off.
Generally speaking, in a World Cup knockout match the more experienced campaigners the better, particularly when you need to take a breath, halt the onslaught and wrestle momentum back.
Forced to chase the game under scoreboard and superb kick chase pressure, the All Blacks seemed panicked at times.
They played as individuals.
That’s not solely down to the younger members of the team – senior players made errors too. But, on this occasion, inexperience may have been a factor.
The average age of the starting backline comes in at 25.
Unlike their more senior teammates who have won World Cups, those same rookies are now left shattered and vulnerable.
Should England be fined for their response to the haka?
No. Surely World Rugby has more important tasks to worry about.
If basis is set aside, it’s easy to see England’s V-shaped formation as adding to the pre-match theatre and only enhancing expectations.
Just as France did not disrespect the haka with the same response in the 2011 final, neither did England here.
Owen Farrell’s smirk and wink may not sit well with everyone but this was England’s way of accepting the challenge.
So what a couple of players overstepped the line, does it really matter?
Is it worth a fine?
It’s not like they re-enacted Richard Cockerill and Norm Hewitt’s standoff from 1997.
Move on already.
What should we expect from Wales?
Or, more pertinently, what should Wales expect from the All Blacks?
In short, Wales should prepare for a proper backlash.
Aside from the fact the All Blacks will attempt to release their hurt and frustrations, there will be several players and coaches involved in their last tests.
Ryan Crotty, Ben Smith, Kieran Read, Sonny Bill Williams, Steve Hansen and Mike Cron are all finishing after this tournament.
Wales are a tenacious side but may be out on their feet.
They’ve got one day less than the All Blacks to recover and park their emotions.
They’ve also lost George North, Josh Navidi, Liam Williams and Tomas Francis to injury.
The result is rather meaningless but Wales could be walking into the perfect storm.
Visions of their second win over the All Blacks and a slightly better farewell for Warren Gatland should be greatly tempered.