Justin Marshall 's Opinion

Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall's Chalkboard: The best way to attack

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The Blues are struggling in the management zone with Ma'a Nonu being pulled into that area which doesn't suit him. Photo / Getty Images
The Blues are struggling in the management zone with Ma'a Nonu being pulled into that area which doesn't suit him. Photo / Getty Images

For any rugby side to be truly effective and be consistently winning games, there are three zones in which I believe they have to get their attacking game right.

I call them the 'three Ms' - the management zone; the metres zone and the maximum zone.

Going through them - starting with the management zone - this is the area where the team's decision-makers operate. It's paramount in this zone that good decisions are made because it's here where you fix the opposition defence and create opportunity in the other two zones.

The best teams do a lot of their hard work in this zone - mostly through their key decision makers at No 8, halfback and first-five. If they get it right - when to run, when to pass, when to kick - then it sets the team up: it stops opposition defences from drifting.

The management zone often has great players - in the modern context that would be Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden and Dan Carter and also the likes of Kieran Read and Richie McCaw.

The metres zone is where teams can make or break the gainline. When I think of this zone, players such as Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Jean de Villiers come to mind. Often wings and fullbacks can pop up here, where they are looking for a one-on-one or mis-match to exploit and get their team over that advantage line.

The final area is the maximum zone where teams want to get all they can from the hard work they have put into the other two zones. It's men such as Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Bryan Habana, Jonah Lomu...whoever...that get your team the maximum rewards.

Looking at New Zealand's Super Rugby teams, I think the Blues are struggling in that management zone. Ma'a Nonu is being pulled into that zone and I don't think that suits him.

When he plays for the All Blacks he operates in the metres zone - focuses on that job and does it brilliantly. The Blues are also missing Francis Saili - maybe if he'd been fit, the combination of him and Nonu would have enabled them to get away with a bit of inexperience in the management zone.

The Chiefs I think are not getting what they want out of the metres zone. They haven't had consistency of selection there and it's hurting them. When Sonny Bill Williams was there, they were lethal but they look to me to be lacking confidence and authority in that zone at the moment. I think if Robbie Fruean had been fit, he would have given them what they needed.

The Crusaders and Highlanders I would say are going okay in all three zones and the Hurricanes are hit and miss. As they showed last week against the Chiefs, when they get it right across all three, they are almost unstoppable. But they aren't always able to get it right.

- NZ Herald

Justin Marshall

Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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