Umaga: British experience vital

Tana Umaga is hoping the New Zealand coaches' experiences in Britain will be of benefit to the All Blacks in the upcoming Test series against Sir Clive Woodward's Lions. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Tana Umaga is hoping the New Zealand coaches’ experiences in Britain will be of benefit to the All Blacks in the upcoming Test series against Sir Clive Woodward’s Lions.

The mixing of rugby cultures is never an easy thing to do but it seems New Zealand’s success in the past 12 months that saw them trounce a depleted England team, retain the Bledisloe Cup against Australia and sweep through Europe unbeaten against Italy, Wales, France and the Barbarians – not to mention the recent demolition of Fiji – is down to just that.

The victory in Paris last November saw outstanding performances from back row trio Jerry Collins, Rodney So’oialo and Richie McCaw demolish their opposites, while the All Blacks backline, marshalled by fly-half Daniel Carter, cut the French to ribbons as they ran in five unanswered tries.

The credit for this reversal away from the ‘no-rucking’ policy of John Mitchell’s abortive 2003 World Cup campaign sits squarely on the shoulders of Graham Henry and his assistants Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith.

Now after seasons of refining their knowledge of the ‘dark arts’ of forward play with Wales (Henry and Hansen) and Northampton (Smith) this coaching triumvirate have returned from the north and set about mixing the free-flowing, running game of southern hemisphere rugby, with the grunt and grind of its northern cousins.

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"Graham’s trying to mould both cultures of rugby together, our love of the open game and trying to use all of the players with the UK-based emphasis on the forward pack," explains All Blacks skipper Umaga.

"All our coaches have been coaching in the northern hemisphere and they understand the need for us to have a solid base at set phase for scrum, line-out and kick-off.

"That’s something the British are best at. They just seem to be so strong in that area. They have brought that knowledge to the All Blacks."

Having the knowledge is one thing, getting players to change the way they approach the game is quite another.

However, this generation of All Blacks is keen to take on board all Henry, Hansen and Smith have to offer.

"They’ve been in the game a long time and they are just sharing their knowledge with us and it’s up to us to get onto it and learn and take it all in.

"It’s hard when you have a lot of knowledge and you’re trying to give it to other people but the other people are reluctant to change their ways.

"The players we have want to learn everything we can," Umaga said.

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