After England’s narrow defeat by New Zealand in their Four Nations opener last weekend, Wayne Bennett’s side take on Scotland on Saturday. Great Britain legend Jonathan Davies explains where England went wrong against the Kiwis and how they can turn their campaign around.
The good news for England is that a big part of where they went wrong on Saturday is not too difficult to solve.
The Four Nations game was there to be won for Wayne Bennett’s men, particularly in the first 20 minutes when they squandered a couple of excellent opportunities.
But they failed to get the right people in position at the crucial play-the-balls.
New Zealand had [halfback] Shaun Johnson. He has haunted England before, scoring a last-gasp match-winning try in the 2013 World Cup semi-final and controlling things in the Kiwis’ Four Nations victory a year later and, once more, he proved crucial.
He scored the decisive drop-goal, but more than that, he controlled the kicking game and brought a composure to New Zealand’s play on the last tackle.
England need half-backs Gareth Widdop [St George Illawarra Dragons] and Luke Gale [Castleford] to do the same. They do it for their clubs, but at international level things are just a little quicker.
X-factor on a Saturday night
England lacked that X-factor to break down the New Zealand defence and convert the chances they had into points.
Neither Wigan stand-off George Williams nor Warrington full-back Stefan Ratchford were involved against the Kiwis, but they have that quality in spades.
St Helens centre Mark Percival is going well as well; he has loads of pace.
I think that Bennett has to look at those three against Scotland because England were in the game against New Zealand, but just lacked that bit of killer punch to get over the line.
Less is more for Burgess
Saturday was a big day for Sam Burgess.
He was back into international rugby league, almost a year after he was playing in union’s World Cup, and he was captain of the team for the first time.
But he was trying a little too hard at times.
He wanted to lead from the front and towards the end of the game, when the half-backs should have been controlling things, he was trying to take things into his own hands. He lost the ball on a couple of occasions doing so and, in a game of fine margins, that might have been costly.
Bennett needs to speak up
The England coach was frosty in the interview with Tanya Arnold before kick-off, offering up only one-sentence answers to some of her questions.
He is regarded as a ‘supercoach’ and some people like the approach.
But I think you need to show a little more respect though when fronting up to the media.
Bennett does not come across as a shouter, but he will be trying to work out why England missed out on the chances that they did.
He said afterwards that they need to “learn” how to win.
Top-level sport is all about momentum and when you have it, you have to capitalise and build on it by scoring points.
That is the difference between Australia and New Zealand on one hand and England on the other at the moment.
Next up, Scotland
England have to not only beat Scotland, but also put on as many points as they can because qualification might come down to that.
They will also want to focus on the areas that will be key against Australia and it can be difficult to balance those two things.
If England are a long way up they may just go for points, rather than practise the elements that they need.
Jonathan Davies was speaking to BBC Sport’s Mike Henson.
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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-league/37842191