David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Kiwis to change tactics for England clash

Jason Taumalolo of New Zealand gets surrounded by Kangaroos defenders in the first test. Photo / Getty
Jason Taumalolo of New Zealand gets surrounded by Kangaroos defenders in the first test. Photo / Getty

Five-eighth Thomas Leuluai says the Kiwis will look to attack more off the cuff and closer to the advantage line in next week's Four Nations opener against England in Huddersfield.

The Kiwis appeared to play into Australia's hands in last week's 26-6 loss in Perth, and deviated from tactics that have proved successful in recent seasons, by opting to run second-man moves through a deep backline rather than playing direct and in support of their big forwards.

Chances to create second-phase play were missed when forward runners found themselves stranded without any support, but Leuluai says the Kiwis will look at standing closer to both the defence and their ball-carriers to sniff out any offloads and capitalise on any half-breaks.

"You've always got to have structure," said Leuluai. "You can't just go out there and throw the ball around. There's 13 guys playing so you've got to know what each other is doing.

"But it definitely is a case of that, maybe playing a little bit more ad-lib and pushing up a bit more flatter.

"We'll have a chat about that."

The Kiwis' execution was also lacking due to the fact several players, including the side's three playmakers - Leuluai, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke - had not played for six weeks since the Warriors' last game on September 4.

Australia also had several players that weren't involved in the NRL finals but six of their starting side enjoyed a hit-out for the Prime Minister's XIII against Papua New Guinea, three weeks before arriving in Perth.

Similarly, England will get their chance to work out some rust when they play a warm-up game against France in Avignon tomorrow, and Leuluai says the Kiwis could have benefited from playing a similar fixture themselves.

"In retrospect, yeah, most probably," he said. "Especially the guys that hadn't played for a while, it most probably would have been a lot better.

"It [cohesion] will improve. A number of us had not played in a number of weeks and that showed.

"I definitely felt a bit rusty and sometimes there's no ways around that."

The Kiwis realise the enormity of the task they face having not beaten England at home since 2005 and with last year's end-of-season two-one series defeat still fresh in their minds.

"We haven't performed the best over there," said Leuluai. "We definitely know now not to underestimate them and they've got a new coach now in Wayne Bennett, who's a decent coach, so it's going to be a really tough challenge."

Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich believes England is capable of winning the tournament, and says the size of the host nation's forwards and the dour northern hemisphere conditions has them anticipating another torrid physical battle.

"I think so, after last year's three game series," said Bromwich.

"It was tough but we're not going to lie down and let them walk through us.

"We're going to be putting out best foot forward and hopefully they don't win the tournament.

"With big Sam Burgess leading them this year they're going to be very physical again.

"I'd expect definitely a tough match and it's going to be wet over there so it will be even more of a forward battle."

The Kiwis begin their Four Nations defence against England at John Smith's Stadium in Huddersfield next Sunday (NZT), before a rematch with Australia at Coventry on November 6, and an appointment with Scotland at Workington on November 12, ahead of the tournament final at Anfield, Liverpool, on November 21.

- NZ Herald

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