Although England got their Four Nations campaign back on track with victory over Scotland on Saturday, they face a tough task against unbeaten Australia this weekend and points difference could decide whether Wayne Bennett’s side reach the final at Anfield. Great Britain legend Jonathan Davies explains how England should approach the match and the impact Super League is having on the international game.
Sunday’s game between England and Australia is going to be all or nothing for England – and they only have themselves to blame.
They put themselves in this position by not taking their chances in their opening game against New Zealand. If they had raised their game, they could have won easily. They were the better side but Shaun Johnson did something special at the right time and the chance was gone.
Then, against Scotland last weekend, they had to put a lot of points on and didn’t manage it, partly because Scotland played so well, but also because England were below par in the first half.
Although they were always going to win, they just didn’t do the things they will need to do well against Australia.
On Sunday, the priority is winning the game but whether they can do that and get enough points to get through, we’ll have to wait and see. However, if they win and don’t get through, then at least they have put themselves in a good position to build for next year.
Super League not helping England
Unfortunately, a lot of what I saw in the Super League this season is mirroring what we are seeing at international level in this competition when it comes to England.
This season, the offensive play across the competition was not creative enough and the cutting edge we had seen in previous years was lacking.
In addition, making the right calls on crucial plays and the area of game management was absent at times.
There has also been a real absence of an England player with that X-factor – someone like a Shaun Johnson or a Cooper Cronk or Johnathan Thurston.
England coach Wayne Bennett has been talking about doing things right psychologically and it is the thinking part of the game that has let England down so far. They have struggled when it comes to creating opportunities, making the most of them and executing them at the right time.
That is the big difference between what Australia and New Zealand are able to do and what England are doing.
I felt the frustration that was evident from his interview after last Saturday’s win – he is trying to work on England’s game management but the players don’t seem to be executing it.
You could see Bennett was unhappy but why should you hide from the fact that it was a poor performance from the players? However, you do have to be respectful of the media.
Can London work?
If I was a player and had the chance to play at the London Stadium I would like to do it in front of a sell-out crowd.
There are a lot of Australians and New Zealanders in London so hopefully there will be a good crowd on Sunday and rugby league fans from the traditional heartlands will make the journey down to see it.
The Rugby Football League does try to bring the game to different areas and we’ve seen games in this series in Cumbria, Hull and Coventry.
While they are trying to expand, I think after this tournament they will have to see if it is worth it or do they look to strengthen in the traditional rugby league areas where you have the interest and can fill stadiums.
We saw it with the England-New Zealand game in Huddersfield, which was a sell-out match and was a great experience.
What England need to do
- New Zealand face Scotland in Workington on Friday, 11 November before England play Australia at London Stadium on Sunday, 13 November.
- England need to defeat Australia to have a chance of qualifying – but it is likely to then come down to points difference.
- Bennett’s side currently hold a +25 points difference, while the Kiwis are on -5.
- If New Zealand defeat Scotland by more than 30 points, then they will set England a points target against Australia.
- England would need to defeat Australia by one more point than the amount New Zealand scored above a 30-point winning margin.
- Example: New Zealand 40-0 Scotland. England must beat Australia 11-0 to go through to the final.
- If the points difference ends level then there is a further set of qualifying criteria.
Jonathan Davies was speaking to BBC Sport’s Elizabeth Hudson
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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-league/37910048