England problems can be fixed for PNG game – Bennett


Highlights: England 36-6 France
England v Papua New Guinea, World Cup quarter-final
Date: Sunday, 19 November, 05:00 GMT. Venue: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Melbourne.
Coverage: BBC Two from 04:30 GMT and on the BBC Sport website

Coach Wayne Bennett says England’s failure to put an 80-minute performance together “can be fixed” before Sunday’s quarter-final against Papua New Guinea.

England progressed from Group A as runners-up to Australia following a 36-6 win over France, but 26 of those points came in an explosive first half.

Bennett’s side also faded after the break against Lebanon, although they were more consistent against Australia.

“We did not do the things we did in the first half,” said the Australian.

“We won the game. When they were good they were good. We were trying to play with structure.

“It takes discipline to get it right and understanding what got you the 26 points in the first half. It is not magical. It can be fixed.”

Assistant coach Denis Betts said England’s performance was “very disjointed and sloppy” in the second half.

“The completion rate was not good enough, the ball control was really poor and the decision making and options were not good enough,” Betts told BBC Two.

“The coaches are not happy, Wayne is not happy, the players are not happy with the display we put on, the lack of discipline and maybe getting over-confident at times.

“It is hard to put a finger on why. I’ve got to highlight how clinical we were at the start and some of the attacking skills were outstanding, but we have got to do that for 80 minutes.”

‘We brought 24 players to challenge’

Bennett made five changes to the side that beat Lebanon, with James Roby, Mark Percival, Kevin Brown, Mike McMeeken and Scott Taylor all coming into the squad.

Utility back Stefan Ratchford was picked on the wing, while Gareth Widdop impressed at full-back as Bennett rotated his squad.

“That’s what you want, we brought 24 players to challenge each other,” added Betts.

“We’ve had three games to sort ourselves out and now the debate between the coaches is about the best combinations.

“Tonight has thrown up another couple of different options. I think we are good enough for anybody.”

Former Great Britain full-back Jonathan Davies says Widdop should keep the number one jersey, with Warrington’s Ben Currie – who is usually a back-row forward – playing at centre.

“I would pick Ben Currie for the threat from midfield,” Davies told BBC Two. “And I do think you need an out-and-out finisher at full-back, which is why I’ve gone for Gareth Widdop.”

‘It’s about doing our job individually’

Gareth Widdop scored England’s first try against France

Widdop crossed for a try and created two others from the full-back position, but the St George Illawarra Dragon says England need “80-minute performances” in the knockout stages.

“The first half was really good, we competed really well,” said the 28-year-old. “In the second half for about 10 to 15 minutes we kept turning over the ball, which we can’t afford to do.

“We keep improving week in, week out and if we keep continuing to do that we give ourselves a chance.”

Widdop expects a tough meeting with Papua New Guinea in Sunday’s quarter-final, but is confident England will prevail if they play to something like their potential.

The Halifax-born player added: “They’re a great team. They’ve played really well the last few weeks.

“It’s going to be a really tough challenge, but we’ve been speaking about this the last few weeks. It’s about what we do, make sure we’re doing our job individually and if we can do that it’s job done.”

France coach Aurelien Cologni believes England are one of “four or five” teams in with a chance of winning the World Cup.

“I think there are other teams, like Fiji and Tonga, who can have a good finish,” he said. “And I think New Zealand will react too.

“England need to fix a few little things but they will be in that group. It’s an open World Cup, it is more than just the top three now.

“There are four or five teams who can push the Kangaroos to the limit and England will be one of them.”

I’ll be fit for PNG – Burgess

Key forward Sam Burgess missed the victories against Lebanon and France after picking up a knee injury in the opening-day defeat by Australia.

Burgess was not expected to be fit again until the semi-finals, but the South Sydney Rabbitohs forward told BBC Two he will be ready to face Papua New Guinea next week.

“I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to it,” said Burgess.

“Wayne Bennett is a hard taskmaster, so he’ll get the best out of us during the week. He knows how to motivate us. But the players know how to motivate themselves.”

Former Widnes and Warrington player Davies added: “Wayne Bennett won’t play Sam Burgess if he’s not fit. He’s a phenomenal player and a big character in the camp.

“He’ll attract the Papua New Guinea defenders, and England have to be clever and score a couple of tries on the back of that.”

The quarter-final line-up

The World Cup quarter-finals will take place across three days, from Friday, 17 November to Sunday, 19 November.

Australia face Samoa in the opening last-eight clash, before Tonga face Lebanon on Saturday.

New Zealand and Fiji will also meet on Saturday, with England’s game against co-hosts Papua New Guinea taking place on Sunday.

The winners of Australia v Samoa and New Zealand v Fiji meet in the semi-finals a week later, while it will be England or PNG against the winners of Tonga v Lebanon.

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