Zinzan Brooke opinion: Just reward for Scott Barrett   26 Oct 2019

Zinzan Brooke

Playing him at No 6 may sound like a surprise call but he’s punched above his weight and played good rugby all season long. We can now challenge England’s lineout with a fourth option. This is great recognition for him and I’m sure he’ll go well.

Things change quickly. Look at his brother Beauden, who was our first choice No 10 three months ago. Now he is playing so well at fullback and Richie Mo’unga has looked more accomplished in every outing. That combination is working well for the All Blacks.

I was at a function last night and there were mixed opinions on how this big Rugby World Cup semifinal will pan out.

The rugby supporters think England will do it. The rugby people think both teams can do it.

There was some beating of the chest from English fans, perhaps fuelled by amber liquid. But the rugby purist, like former England halfback Danny Care, feels the All Blacks are going to be too good. I feel it’s all about execution and delivery.

I think the team that creates momentum early doors will be the winner, and I believe whoever wins this game will win the final. The All Blacks and England are the two best teams at the Rugby World Cup.

The Springboks have had their wobbles, and how on Earth did Wales steal that quarter-final against France?

The All Blacks need control and early dominance and if that happens, England will need to play catch-up and won’t want to kick the ball away. England has reunited George Ford and Owen Farrell in the five-eighths, so expect a few high balls on the back three. Conversely, I would be bombing Elliot Daly, because I didn’t think he’s as sound under the high ball as Mike Brown.

Jonny May will probably win the aerial battle against the shorter Sevu Reece, so does Reece wait for him, hit him when he comes down and shut down the offload? That might be the strategy.

England tactically got the better of Australia last weekend, and I thought it was arrogant of Michael Cheika and the Wallabies to think they could just run it from deep in a tight playoff match. Multi-phasing against a team like England has to be done in their territory. Then you can increase scoreboard pressure by taking shots for goal or push the ball into the corner. The Wallabies’ tactics were bonkers. The All Blacks won’t play that naively.

Ireland was just never tested by Scotland and then got upended by Japan. So, without being disrespectful to the Irish, they just never coped with how the All Blacks executed, especially in that first 40 minutes. They were sensational.

The Springboks should win in the second semifinal. I haven’t seen their side yet but I believe they will try and beat Wales up physically.

Wales will miss injured No 8 Josh Navidi, and I think they have run their course. If France knew how to close the game, then Les Bleus would have won that match.

I feel the All Blacks-England game will be very tight, and it could go 5-8 points either way. I’m leaning towards the All Blacks.

I hope it doesn’t happen, but I do not want to see a red card in these semis. I suspect we’ll see a couple of yellows, but we can do without the reds.

NZ Rugby/Getty Images

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