Mike Tindall urges England's Six Nations rivals to 'niggle' the All Blacks and expose a genuine weakness

Euan Reedie
Mike Tindall believes New Zealand are starting to show signs of a weakness after defeats by Australia and the Lions: Getty

England Rugby World Cup hero Mike Tindall says the Red Rose’s Six Nations rivals can do Eddie Jones’s men a favour if they can “niggle” the All Blacks by beating them next month.

England, who are second behind New Zealand in the World Rugby rankings, are not due to play the reigning world champions until next autumn.

But France, Scotland and Wales all face Steve Hansen’s men in the autumn internationals after the tourists play the Barbarians on Saturday – and Tindall insists their aura of impregnability has evaporated slightly.

“It’s a very fine line to say that the All Blacks are vulnerable, but I think at the moment there is a chink [in their armour],” the 2003 World Cup winner told The Independent. “It’s a very, very, very tiny crack, but Australia [have exposed that] as have the [British and Irish] Lions.”

Tindall was alluding to the fact that the All Blacks lost their last outing 23-18 to Australia on 21 October – their second defeat of the year after the Lions overcame them in the second Test of their drawn three-Test series.

England beat New Zealand in 2002 and 2003 ahead of their World Cup success (Getty)

The last time the All Blacks, who it must be noted still won the 2017 Rugby Championship with six wins out of six, lost two games in a season was in 2011.

“But there’s so much strength in the All Blacks’ psyche that you’ve actually got to break into that psyche and you only do that by creating a little bit of doubt by winning numerous games,” Tindall, a 75-times capped former centre, was quick to add. “As a whole, the All Blacks are so robust in terms of what they are and their whole ethos and the whole way they carry themselves. I think Australia have niggled at it, the Lions have niggled at it.

“Now what you need is someone this autumn when they come over to niggle at it as well and just plant that little seed in the back of their mind that hopefully when England come to meet them in the autumn of next year, they can bring their best game to beat the All Blacks.

“To get that win a year out [from the 2019 World Cup], you go back to 2003 and we didn’t lose to the All Blacks in 2002 and 2003, so we had that psychological edge.”

The All Blacks suffered defeat last time out against Australia (Getty)

The Rugby Football Union’s chief executive, Steve Brown, last week outlined a five-year ambition to make rugby England’s strongest sport.

The RFU hopes this lofty aim would be met if England can derail the All Blacks’ bid to win a third straight World Cup in 2019 and fifth in total.

“If we can consistently find those performances week in, week out to rival New Zealand, I think there’s no reason we shouldn’t set our stall out to be the best international [rugby team] and the best English international team in any sport,” added Tindall, while appearing at the ‘Swing Against Cancer’ Golf Series finale in Dubai. “I think we have the players, we have the ability and we have the funding for sure from the RFU, so I think that’s a realistic goal to go after now. The All Blacks will probably have something to say about that, but unfortunately we won’t find out for a year’s time where we sit around them.

“But I think we’re in a place where we can enjoy watching our rugby and enjoy the way that we play and hopefully be taking it to the All Blacks week in, week out.”

New Zealand won all six matches to lift the Rugby Championship (Getty)

The immediate future for England is a triple-header against Argentina, Australia and Samoa on three successive weekends at Twickenham from November 11.

Tindall is confident of a home whitewash, too, hailing Eddie Jones for making the 2017 Six Nations champions more “mentally robust” since succeeding Stuart Lancaster two years ago.

The 39-year-old said: “Australia have obviously now put their hands up and they’re looking for consistency in their performance and Argentina have shown through the Rugby Championship that they’ve been ahead against Australia and New Zealand at half time in two of their games. Depending on the teams they pick, I think England need to win 3-0 but I think those two teams will put up a fight and will come here to play, but then that’s great for England and they’ll need to address that.

“If you’re talking about what Mr Brown said about them being the best English sport, they have to win 3-0 and that’s what they’ve now got to expect. I would expect them to win all three and I would expect them to win a Grand Slam [next year], but if they want to be where they’re saying they want to be, that’s what they’ve got to be aiming for now.”

Tindall believes the RFU are right to target being the strongest team n rugby as well as English sport (Getty)

“Even in our team back in 2003, we won so many games but we lost the odd game here and there and most of them were Grand Slam [deciders] in Scotland and Ireland and bits and bobs like that,” he continued. “So you are going to get knocks on the way, but if you’re consistently putting in performances, then you’ll win more than you lose.

“That’s what they’ve got to try and aim for. It’s what they’ve done for the past two years that Eddie’s been in charge and that’s what he’ll still want to do and bring that intensity that he’s managed to pull from those players, then they’ll be in good shape.”

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