England coach Steve McNamara says his side will relish the opportunity to put Australia out of the Four Nations series.
While England survived a major scare at the hands of newcomers Samoa, winning 32-26 in the first part of Saturday’s double-header at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, the Kangaroos went down to a surprise 30-12 defeat by New Zealand in the match that followed. It means if the Kiwis avoid defeat by Samoa in Whangarei next Saturday, Australia will need to beat McNamara’s men in Melbourne 24 hours later to keep alive their hopes of reaching the November 15 final in Wellington.
“It’s a really exciting prospect,” admitted McNamara.
“We said we’d take it one game at a time and now we’ve got the Samoa game out of the way and the two points in the bag.
“We’re going to have to be really on our guard next week but beating Australia in Australia is what it’s all about.
“We know the prize at the end of that. If we can do it, it gets rid of Australia.”
McNamara knows his side will need to find a marked improvement against a Kangaroos side fighting for their lives after twice falling behind to the Pacific islanders in a pulsating opening to the series.
England led 20-10 early in the second half thanks to tries from Castleford Tigers’ Michael Shenton, Kallum Watkins of Leeds Rhinos and Liam Farrell, but two tries in a seven-minute spell from replacement hooker, Wakefield’s Pita Godinet gave the Samoans the sniff of a shock victory on their tournament debut.
However, towering kicks from debutant scrum-half Matty Smith resulted in fortuitous touchdowns for the Tomkins brothers, Sam and Joel, and England survived a late onslaught to claim the precious win.
“We’ll have to improve absolutely everywhere,” McNamara said. “Ball control for one, that’s a major one for us. But I can’t stress too much how pleased we are. It’s always tough coming across here and playing a tough Samoa team first was always a banana skin. It was their final. We needed to find a way to win and I’m delighted we did.”