England vs New Zealand: Changes on cards as Steve McNamara targets series win

Those pressing for a place at the DW Stadium are the Huddersfield pair of Jermaine McGillvary and Leroy Cudjoe

Monday 09 November 2015 00:12
George Williams tries to haul down Tohu Harris
George Williams tries to haul down Tohu Harris

The England coach, Steve McNamara, will not be short of advice this week as he ponders any changes he might make for the deciding Test against New Zealand next Saturday.

Having won the opening game of the series at Hull, England lost 9-2 at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday to leave everything to play for in the third Test at Wigan. Just who will be involved in the decider, however, remains to be resolved. With few standout performances, team changes are a real possibility.

McNamara’s first instinct would be to keep faith with the line-up that has defended admirably in the first two matches. The lack of attacking spark, though, means that he must consider trying to perk up England’s game when they have the ball. He admitted that there would be a review of individual performances but added this was standard practice.

Those pressing for a place at the DW Stadium are the Huddersfield pair of Jermaine McGillvary and Leroy Cudjoe.

McGillvary was the leading try-scorer in Super League last season, while Cudjoe has international experience and is highly regarded for his attacking skills. The current centres, Kallum Watkins and John Bateman, have been solid defensively but have provided little creativity.

By the same token, half-backs Gareth Widdop and George Williams could be vulnerable. They both made a number of mistakes and some poor decisions, and McNamara has two half-backs in Matty Smith and Luke Gale as yet unused.

Smith has arguably had his chance, however, and recalling him would seem like a step backwards. Understandably, the incumbents believe that more of the same will be enough to win the Test and the series. “If we can defend like we did tonight and just fix up our attack a little, we’ll be fine,” insisted Widdop.

In the forwards, Ben Westwood has been an unused member of the 19-man squad so far. He is approaching the veteran stage but has a knack of lifting the players around him.

England could be encouraged to adopt the “horses for courses” approach used successfully by the Kiwis in drafting in reserve hooker Kodi Nikorima to play scrum-half on Saturday.

“I just felt that Kodi would be a better fit for this match,” said their coach, Stephen Kearney.

The Sun’s rugby league writer, Gary Carter, is still in a critical condition in hospital in London after being assaulted before the match.

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