Rugby League: Kiwis must play smarter - Shaun Johnson

Shaun Johnson has called on his side to be smarter than they were against the Kangaroos. Photo / photosport.nz
Shaun Johnson has called on his side to be smarter than they were against the Kangaroos. Photo / photosport.nz

Shaun Johnson has called upon his New Zealand teammates to play smarter ahead of their Four Nations opener against England.

The Warriors' NRL star also says he needs more support in defence from his Kiwi forwards ahead of the clash against England in Huddersfield on Saturday.

After their disappointing 26-6 loss to Australia in Perth two weeks ago, the Kiwis, desperately need a win as they seek to retain their Four Nations crown.

Halfback Johnson was heavily criticised for his effort in the loss to the Kangaroos at nib Stadium, but he was behind a beaten Kiwis pack.

Now playing on British grounds that should suit their forward-oriented approach, Johnson said the Kiwis need to sharpen their approach.

"We have to mix things up. I feel we have the best forward pack in the world we just have to learn how to use that in the best way," Johnson told AAP.

"You saw (against Australia) when we got ourselves going, we got back into the game.

"We just played a bit too straight up and down and let our big boys run through the middle without too much shape. We just expected them to win the ruck for us.

"But to be fair their middles played a bit smarter, with more width and found things easier. We have to use the eyes a bit more, look to go wider a bit more and look for the halfback, you know."

Johnson was forced to make 34 tackles, behind only Kevin Proctor (44) and fellow back-rower Tohu Harris (35) in the Kiwis side.

"I found myself tackling a lot, it is hard, it is very hard," Johnson said. "Individually we have to lock that ball up and hold onto it.

"You can have all the fancy game plans and all the fancy plays you want but if you are not holding onto that ball you are going to get points put on you."

Johnson did say new coach David Kidwell had them on track after taking over from new Warriors coach Stephen Kearney six weeks ago.

"The environment that David has brought back and brought his own little touch on has been a really enjoyable one," he said. "We are away for a month and we need to enjoy our time in camp. We will keep feeding off that. I know we are going to play some really good footy and learn our lessons.

"We will play Australia again soon and we will have the chance to show what we have learned."

-AAP

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 23 Jan 2017 06:03:54 Processing Time: 643ms