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Brian Noble column

Brian Noble
By Brian Noble
Wigan Warriors coach and BBC analyst in Australia

Paul Wellens is wrapped up by the Kiwis defence
Paul Wellens finds his way halted by the Kiwi defence

England coach Tony Smith will not be panicking after Saturday's 36-24 defeat to New Zealand. He is too smart for that.

There are things to work on but he and his staff will be well aware of what they are.

England were terrific for the first 30 minutes of the match and they can take a lot of heart from that. The concern is the way they fell away in the second half - failing to score any points and conceding 22.

But we should give credit to New Zealand. They rectified the things they had been doing wrong and they have some dangerous players.

We should all remember the competition starts properly next week with the semi-final. If England replicate that early-game performance for the whole match, they have a great opportunity to win.


The worry is that the right-side of our defence isn't at its best.

There seems to be a lack of communication and cohesion there and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognise that Australia last week and New Zealand this week scored a lot of their points down that side.

I don't think it is a necessarily a personnel issue, I think it is a structure problem. The coaching staff will be aware of it and must make sure the players talk to each other more.

However, with a bit of hard work in training this week, I think it can be fixed and Tony will know that as well.

I've seen enough in England to know if they play a certain way they can trouble the Kiwis

England have to look at the things that troubled the opposition because the line-ups won't change that dramatically next week.

Of those who came in, Mickey Higham showed he can cause problems and Rob Purdham didn't do his selection chances any harm.

Adrian Morley and Jamie Peacock looked explosive alongside Higham early on, while Rob Burrow and Martin Gleeson looked threatening with their runs.

The right combinations are crucial next week, but they have to lay the platform with Peacock and Morley, while England they also have James Graham and James Roby to come back into the team.

There is still a conundrum over who will play at half-back with both Danny McGuire and Leon Pryce sitting out the defeat to New Zealand. Neither has played as well as they have done in the domestic competition.

The kicking strategy will be vital next week but I'm reminded of Leeds's Grand Final win when Kevin Sinfield, Burrow and McGuire all kicked really well and that helped them to defeat a fancied St Helens team.

Up until this game, Benji Marshall for New Zealand had not shown the prowess he shows in the NRL but, given a bit of space in the second half, he put on a super show.

I think it will be a whole lot closer next week but I believe England can win.

I've seen enough in them to know if they play a certain way they can trouble the Kiwis but on the reverse side, if they don't fix those things they can get beaten.

This week's performance will be forgotten if next week goes well.

Brian Noble was speaking to BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson.

see also
England 24-36 New Zealand
08 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Smith furious after loss to Kiwis
08 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
NZ angry at lack of haka respect
08 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
England v NZ as it happened
08 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
World Cup pictures
08 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Rugby League World Cup 2008 fixtures
08 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Rugby League World Cup history
21 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Rugby League World Cup on the BBC
06 Oct 08 |  Rugby League

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