Garry Schofield: Lucky England urgently need to improve

I was astonished to hear the pundits on the BBC saying how well England played against Samoa, and making excuses for a lucky win.

If it wasn’t for the two tries that came from kicks because of some poor play from the Samoan fullback, then we may have found ourselves on the losing side.

One thing is certain – there is a long way to go if we are going to win the Four Nations.

The question I have is why we didn’t have a warm-up game?

This article originally appeared in this week’s edition of League Express newspaper. Click here to download the digital version to your computer, smartphone or tablet

We had no fluency whatsoever, and very little creative play. You could see we were a team that had come together for the first time. We were lucky to have played Samoa in the first game.

The only two creative tries we scored were those by Liam Farrell and Kallum Watkins, while Michael Shenton’s try came from an opportunistic Daryl Clark scoot.

But in general our timing was out. Matty Smith is our best scrum-half – the best of an average bunch – but he will be hoping that Sean O’Loughlin will be fit to face Australia on Sunday. Sean takes a lot of pressure off Matty by playing at first man, and allowing Matty to be the second man out.

He helps him, and I’m sure Matty will play with more confidence if Sean is back in the team.

As it is, there was nothing convincing about England’s win and I can’t give it any more than a five out of ten.

There’s a hell of a lot to work on. Principally that would include ball security, and I’m not buying into the theory that the conditions made ball handling difficult. Let’s credit the Samoa defence instead.

And let’s not put a spin on our performance. It won’t frighten the Kiwis or Aussies.

But there were some positives, including the two hookers who were on debut. Josh Hodgson varied his game at the right times and took the right options, while Daryl Clark showed great creativity with Michael Shenton.

But England needed to put a marker down, and they didn’t quite manage it, despite the victory.

Australia have been beaten by New Zealand, which can happen with a one-off. But I don’t think they will be frightened by us and they will have seen that Samoa scored some soft tries.

For the latest updates and breaking news, follow us on the social media platform of your choice

But we should congratulate the Kiwis for their performance in beating Australia. They were patient and they weren’t erratic, as the Kiwis can be at times. They had creativity at the right end of the field, and their patience paid off.

I’ve thought for some time that Shaun Johnson has to stand up and be counted as a Test player, and he did that on Saturday. If he can get some consistency into his game he will go down as a great like his predecessor Stacey Jones.

The Aussies had some debutants, but they have great strength in depth and that shouldn’t matter for them.

But now the Kangaroo is wounded, and we know what that implies. They have England in Melbourne, and they will be determined to get back on track.

This is not ideal for England, playing a disappointing and wounded Aussie team.

They will be gunning for us and we will see what we are made of.
I thought Phil Bentham was absolutely outstanding in refereeing that game. You didn’t notice he was out there, and that is the sign of what a good referee does. I would like to congratulate him.

When the Kiwis scored a try he was being questioned by Cameron Smith, but he kept his cool and was outstanding. The egos of these huge players is massive, but Phil wasn’t intimidated by them.

Next weekend, the Kiwis will beat Samoa and I think Australia will beat England. But quite clearly I hope I’m wrong, because we have to beat Australia, and if we don’t we’re out, because the Aussies will wallop Samoa.

So the England players don’t need any motivation. If they win in Melbourne, they will qualify and Australia won’t.

Click here to download the latest issue of Rugby League World magazine to your computer, smartphone or tablet

What a smile that would put on the face of every England supporter.
It would be great to see us win, and that might enable us to say to the Aussies let’s get round a table and get the international timetable sorted out.

People want international Rugby League, as we saw with over 47,000 people in Brisbane. I just hope that we can get a proper international calendar.

With proper planning the players would be properly prepared. The clubs have to be told in no uncertain terms that this is what will happen.
We all want a proper international calendar and it has to come sooner rather than later.