New Zealand has won a great test match beating England 32-22 and booking a place in the 2008 World Cup Final.
It was a fantastic game to watch and at time it looked like either team might win the game, but the Kiwi’s always seemed to have something in reserve.
England probably played their best game of the World Cup but still look like they need another month of football to work out where they really want to be. Too late!
Anyway, lets have a good look at how both sides went.
New Zealand have a few things to work on looking towards the final.
They have a problem with their defensive line, they are strong around the ruck, but they are a bit lazy wider. This means if the dummy half can get out and draw in the defense around the ruck, there is a bit of space just wider that a running forward can get some good meters out of.
Lance Hohaia still looks shaky at the back and I would be tempted to have Sam Perrett start the final at fullback instead.
The Kiwi’s also drop their heads very quickly when the game isn’t going their way. They have the skill and ability to cover mistakes and recover from a bad position, but they need to work on the mental side of the game as well.
You can put that down to it being a young side, with a few players who are not really seasoned playoff performers.
On a positive note they look at lot better around the halves with Nathan Fien playing at halfback and they can put on some very nice plays out wide with Marshall, Fien and even forwards like Blair and Smith being able to all use their ball playing skills to put the opposition under pressure.
I really like the Kiwi forward pack. If they can just get a bit more impact from a few of their bench players they will be able to cause some problems for Australia.
England played well when they got a good amount of possession but it seemed like they needed the Kiwi’s to hand the ball over to them on back to back sets for England to really make anything happen.
They looked good around dummy half with Roby and Higham, but for some unbelievably stupid reason Tony Smith had Rob Burrow then play hooker for pretty much the majority of the game!
Danny McGuire looked at his best when given the role to guide the team around the park and Purdham and Westwood made good on their elevation into the starting side.
The familiar problems were all there still for England though.
Defensively when they have to deal with decoy runners, they simply have no idea what to do, they are completely confused and they make terrible decisions which leads to easy tries.
They also don’t have any idea how to break down a good defense. In the 51st minute England had New Zealand on the back foot and defending their own goal line. Higham went for a dummy half scoot, which would work in Super League, but doesn’t work at this level, and it was an opportunity lost….it was a very telling play on the short comings of English players.
Gleeson was diabolical in defense. he wants to play in the NRL but he will be money in the bank for opposition teams, he has no idea how to defense.
Ade Gardner was involved the whole game, and its fair to say that this test match summed up his career. He can do some good thing, a lot of which is under rated by England fans. Then he’ll go and do something that whats you think “What is he thinking!”. I think he is worth persisting with because lets face it, who else has England got?
Wellens again was terrible and ended up being replaced by Leon Pryce, the type of decision that must have been thought of going into the match and yet another decision that is terrible.
If you think Wellens isn’t going to give you what you want at fullback over the full 80 minutes, don’t pick him in the side!
Rob Burrow again offered nothing, in fact the best kick of the whole World Cup for England came from Purdham from a scrum. You have to wonder how many years it will take England before they stop this stupid Burrow experiment that has been a failure.
At the end of the day, England just are not good enough, but I lay a hell of a lot of blame for their World Cup performance at the feet of Tony Smith.
He came in with ideas, all of which have been wrong. He failed to prepare the team for what they would encounter in the World Cup.
His team selections were all over the place, his in game decisions and tactics were terrible and his off field bleating was that of a coach in over his head.
He waited until the World Cup itself to start to experiment with the side that worked the best and as he got the job half done, the World Cup was over for them.
England now have a lot to think about as far as the direction of the English game goes. I’ll be writing a feature article on what I would do to improve England standards very soon, so keep and eye out for it.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com