England coach Steve McNamara has responded to criticism of his team’s performance in their second Test defeat by New Zealand by insisting they’re ready to play an open game in Saturday’s decider.
Former Great Britain international Garry Schofield accused England of “playing like robots” during their 9-2 loss to the Kiwis in London where they lacked a creative spark and missed the chance to close out a first series success for eight years.
“We’ve always played very open as an England rugby league team and it’s been really good to see,” McNamara said at a media briefing at St George’s Park.
“I’ve really enjoyed the way we generally attack but, 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.”
McNamara, whose side followed up their record 84-4 rout of France with a 26-12 win in the first Test, does not believe they have conceded the momentum to New Zealand for the decider.
“Both teams have had a good look at each other,” he said. “Both will be wary of the threats that 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, it’s everything we thought the series would be.
“We set out to win four Test matches in the autumn and we’ve managed to get two out of three so we want to tick this one off.”
McNamara has used the same 17 for all three games so far and, with no injuries from Saturday’s game, will have the option to pick an unchanged team, although he insists the six players unused so far would be ready to step in if necessary.
“They’ve been keeping themselves in top condition and, if needed, those players are all ready to go and I wouldn’t hesitate to make any changes,” he said.
“After every Test you review it and look to see if you can do things differently tactically or change things personnel-wise which might improve your chances of winning.
“We have reviewed it in depth and we’ll come up with firmer plans as we move on. The players will know well in advance.”