England ordered to improve attack in Kiwis test

England coach Steve McNamara admits his side need to attack “better” if they are going to triumph over the world’s No 1 ranked team but insists they are not a robotic team.

Steve McNamara.

They came in for widespread criticism for failing to show much ingenuity and being one-dimensional during Saturday’s 9-2 defeat to New Zealand when victory would have sealed a first series win since 2007.

Admittedly, England do have a second stab to finish the job when they meet the Kiwis once more in the third and final Test in front of a capacity crowd at Wigan this Saturday lunchtime.

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There have been doubts, however, about whether they possess the necessary attributes to stretch the tourists who were looking more like their familiar selves in London having proved rusty in the 26-12 opening defeat at Hull.

McNamara argued otherwise and said: “I’ve really enjoyed the way we generally attack.

“For whatever reason, we never did that at the weekend and some of the credit has got to go to New Zealand for preventing us from doing that at times.

“There was only one try scored. I think sometimes you’ve got to reward teams’ defensive efforts and it’s not just our sport, I think in sport in general people don’t quite often recognise a great defensive performance.

“But I agree we should have attacked a little bit better than we did. We didn’t score enough points.

“We had a whole lot of work to do in defence but we still needed to put more pressure on New Zealand. We did that the week before pretty successfully.”

Rediscovering that initial verve will be crucial come the weekend and their hopes may have been aided by the appointment of Super League’s Ben Thaler as referee who was unfussy in Hull compared to Australian Gerard Sutton, whose interpretations in London on Saturday were perhaps less well-received by the hosts.

But New Zealand, undoubtedly, will feel like they now have the momentum entering the crucial endgame of this international series.

“Both teams have had a good look at each other,” said McNamara.

“Both will be wary of the threats we pose each other; I think it’s an intriguing match.

“There’s obviously a lot at stake in terms of the series; it’s on the line and everything we thought this series would be.

“We set out to win four Test matches in the autumn and have managed to get two out of three so we want to tick this one off.”

Understandably so, McNamara gave nothing away yesterday when it came to his squad selection for the vital 80 minutes ahead.

England have no new reported injuries and the former Bradford Bulls chief has maintained the same squad for all three games so far – the campaign started with France being vanquished 84-4 –so he could, theoretically, go with the same.

Most people expect at least one change to be named, possibly in the halves, with young Wigan stand-off George Williams admitting to reporters directly after Saturday’s loss that he feared being replaced following a poor display.

Luke Gale and Matty Smith could both step into the No 7 role but, asked about Williams’s state, McNamara said: “He’s fine. I thought George defended really well.

“Defence is half of the game and he played extremely well in that part of the it, as did the rest of the team, particularly on our goal-line defence.

“We weren’t as clever in attack. (But) It certainly wasn’t anything about any one person in our team.”

He says his squad will know the side for Saturday “well in advance” and he won’t “hesitate” to changes things if he deems necessary .

Meanwhile, Sam Tomkins, the England full-back who pulled out of the squad before the first Test due to a knee problem, will not be fit until March.

He suffered the problem in August whilst playing for New Zealand Warriors in a NRL match against West Tigers.

Despite that, the 26-year-old, who has since re-joined Wigan ahead of 2016, had been included in McNamara’s England squad for this Test series.

However, Tomkins was later ruled out of the clashes with the Kiwis and removed from the 24-man squad after failing to prove his fitness.

Following a further assessment of the injury, it was decided Tomkins would undergo surgery to repair the knee damage last Friday and he will now miss the beginning of the new Super League season in February.