QUAYS News sport reporter Andie Riley previews the final test between England and New Zealand and offers his opinion on what should be changed after last weekend’s defeat…
England will be ready for their toughest challenge when they face New Zealand at the DW Stadium in the final game of the test series.
With the Kiwis edging a very flat and dull game at the Olympic stadium 2-9, head coach Steve McNamara has some tough decisions to make regarding selection for this crucial game.
There were very few positives for England fans last week.
Defensively, both teams were outstanding. Neither though offered much in attack. It was a very stop start game not helped by the whistle that referee Gerald Sutton seemed to have glued to his lips in the opening half.
England looked as if they were playing to an American style set of plays from a book every time they had the ball in hand. The Opta stats show that England failed to make a single clean break in 80 minutes.
To lay the blame at the feet of George Williams is to paint over the cracks elsewhere.
Yes, he made a few errors, but the fact of the matter is he just isn’t an international. Yet.
He, along with John Bateman are not yet ready for this level of test in my opinion. I’m certain that they are capable of becoming top quality internationals, but just not yet.
James Roby off the bench in test one was fantastic, but he has to start for me this week. Even the most diehard fan of other teams would have to admit that the Saints man has been outstanding in that position all season.
This has to be the weakest Kiwi team we’ve seen on these shores for a generation.
Even with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at full-back, the fact they are missing Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran and Benji Marshall should have allowed England to put this series to bed on Saturday.
England have made two changes from the 19-man squad they selected against New Zealand in their 9-2 defeat at the Olympic Stadium last Saturday.
Half-back Matty Smith is also named in the squad alongside Huddersfield Giants winger Jermaine McGillvary. They replace Huddersfield’s Leroy Cudjoe and Warrington Wolves forward Ben Westwood.
Smith, who plays for Wigan Warriors, has not played for England since last autumn’s 16-14 defeat to New Zealand in Dunedin.
England need to start with the Huddersfield Giants combination of Leroy Cudjoe and Jermaine McGillvary in my opinion, just for the fact that they know each other inside out, and can break with power and pace on the left, certainly ahead of Joe Burgess who is naturally a right sided player, and Callum Watkins playing left centre.
McGillvary, Super League’s leading try-scorer from the 2015 season, will be hoping to make his England debut on Saturday.
This game is make or break for the England coach. Yes, he has players coming out supporting him, but last year, we lost narrowly to a much better Kiwi team, this year we look to have taken a massive step backwards. He does not have the confidence of this writer.
Who else? If the RFL are to stay with a part time coach, then it has to be Castleford coach Daryl Powell for me. He would command the dressing room and is proven to be able to take players and get the best out of them.
I mentioned the OPTA stats earlier. England had 39 sets, and completed just 64 per cent whereas the Kiwis had 44 sets and completed at 80 per cent.
That is just not good enough at this level.
The first test, England looked like they could beat anyone. At the Olympic park, they looked anything but world beaters.
Hopefully, Wigan on Saturday will see the return of the England who took the field at the KC stadium and not the Olympic version.
Talking to RFL media ahead of the game, McNamara was in bullish mood.
“We have had a great week with our preparation and the players are ready to take on a strong New Zealand side,” said McNamara.
“The players are well aware of the importance of the game and the improvements we have to make from our previous matches to give ourselves every chance of beating New Zealand.
“We will have to be at our best to win, but we’ll relish the pressure of playing against a quality team in front of a full house at Wigan.”
John Bateman (Wigan Warriors), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Mike Cooper (St George Illawarra Dragons), Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors), Brett Ferres (Huddersfield Giants), James Graham (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs), Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos), Zak Hardaker (Leeds Rhinos), Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves), Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Sean O’Loughlin (c) (Wigan Warriors), James Roby (St Helens), Matty Smith (Wigan Warriors), Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos), Elliott Whitehead (Catalans Dragons), Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra Dragons), George Williams (Wigan Warriors).
By: Andie Riley