Former Great Britain coach Tony Smith hopes the Lions realise the “error of our ways” and show more attacking intent in the crucial second Test against New Zealand tomorrow.
Wayne Bennett’s side can do no more than level the two-game series after losing the opening fixture 12-8 in Auckland last week.
I hope we see the error of our ways and realise we have to throw a bit more at New Zealand.Tony Smith
Great Britain came under fire for their lack of ingenuity and creativity against the Kiwis, only coming to life in the final stages when it proved too late.
Having also lost the opening match of the tour 14-6 against Tonga, the success of the trip – a first Lions tour since 2006 – is very much on the line as they prepare for tomorrow’s contest in Christchurch.
Smith took charge of Great Britain against New Zealand when the Kiwis visited the UK in 2007, overseeing a famous 3-0 whitewash that also saw the explosive arrival of Sam Burgess on the international scene.
After that, the national side broke up into the home nations for the 2008 World Cup and has only just reformed for this tour which finishes with a one-off Test against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby a week tomorrow.
Australian Smith, who took England to the 2008 World Cup and also reached the 2009 Four Nations final with them the following year, is hoping for a positive response.
“It’d be great if they can get that win on Saturday,” the Hull KR coach told The Yorkshire Post.
“I’m really pleased the jersey is returned and the fixtures are returned in terms of Great Britain as an entity; it’s fantastic.
“They have a lot of terrific players. They just need to play a bit of rugby league really don’t they?
“We can over-react sometimes. There was probably too many errors in the first match against Tonga and that’s probably been over-compensated for in the second match.
“We have players here – and in Australia – that have the ability to play some rugby league and have been successful with that.
“They make passes, offload the ball and put on the right plays at the right time but there has been a bit of a reaction to what happened against Tonga.
“I hope we see a change this weekend. I hope we see the error of our ways and realise we have to throw a bit more at New Zealand.”
The Lions have scored just two tries in their two games so far. Smith realises Britain must be more adventurous in possession and hopes Bennett’s side will pose more questions.
“Most teams now at a high standard can defend well,” he said. “It’s the way the game has progressed. Most sides defend well so you have got to have a go at them and have people who will take risks.
“There’s no easy tries scored down there; you have to earn the right to score.”
However, the Lions have been hit with yet more injury problems inclduing a surprise late call last night when Zak Hardaker was ruled out with a shoulder injury.
The Wigan full-back, who filled in at centre in Auckland, was pencilled in to play wing after Ryan Hall was ruled out of the tour with a dislocated knee leaving only Huddersfield Giants’ Jermaine McGillvary as their sole specialist winger.
However, in a remarkable turn of events, Warrington Wolves’ stand-off Blake Austin - the ‘marquee’ Australian signing unused so far - will now make his Lions debut on the wing.
Leeds Rhinos’ Ash Handley has been flown out as Hall’s replacement but will not link up with the squad until they start preperations for next week’s final Test at Papua New Guinea.
Warrington second-row Jack Hughes comes in for his Test debut at centre given the Lions are also down to their last fit specialist centre – Hull FC’s Jake Connor.
Wigan centre Ollie Gildart dislocated his shoulder against Tonga and was ruled out for the rest of the tour.
Handley, who with 22 tries was second only to St Helens winger Tommy Makinson as Super League’s leading scorer in 2019, was one of four players on stand-by – Sam Tomkins, Reece Lyne and Liam Watts were the others – from the England squad that played in the recent World Cup Nines in Sydney.
Uncapped Handley, 23, has experience of Papua New Guinea, having been in the Knights squad who played two internationals against the Kumuls last autumn.
Great Britain tour manager Jamie Peacock said: “We’ve been considering our options since losing Ryan Hall and it makes sense for Ash to come and join us in PNG.
“He had a good season with Leeds to earn his place in the Great Britain performance squad, which means he’s had all the necessary injections to come to PNG at short notice.”
However, first comes the Kiwis, who have recalled their own gifted half-back Shaun Johnson – dropped after a heavy defeat to the Kangaroos – in place of Kieran Foran, who dislocated a shoulder early on in the last meeting.
Bennett also confirmed yesterday that Warrington forward Joe Philbin misses out with injury so Luke Thompson - the St Helens prop expected to miss the rest of the tour after suffering a rib issue against Tonga - makes an unexpected return on the bench tomorrow.