Ready: Rhinos ace Ryan Hall was part of the England side which beat the Kiwis to get to the 2011 four nations final and tells Peter Smith they can do it again .
ENGLAND HOPES rather than expects, but World’s Best Winger Ryan Hall believes the ‘Wall of White’ are still well in the hunt for a place in the Four Nations final.
England go into tomorrow’s clash with New Zealand knowing a win by 10 points or more would see them overhaul the currently-unbeaten Kiwis in the four-team table and guarantee a place in next weekend’s tournament decider, in Wellington.
But defeat would almost certainly be a fatal blow to England’s chances and if they win by fewer than 10 points they could be overhauled on for and against by Australia, who take on Samoa in their final round-robin game on Sunday.
Hall – top try scorer for Leeds Rhinos last season – said: “We know what we need to do, that’s the good thing about it. Our destiny is in our own hands and if we get the job done we are in the final.
“That’s what we all want to do and a big performance is needed. Beating the Kiwis is pretty tough at any time and having to beat them by 10 points is even tougher, but we have done it before – at KC Stadium in 2011 – and we need to do that again.”
England haven’t reached a tournament final since the Four Nations three years ago, when they were beaten by Australia after thrashing New Zealand 28-6 in a must-win final group game.
Tomorrow’s showdown is the first Test between the nations since last year’s World Cup semi-final at Wembley, when a Shaun Johnson try 21 seconds from time earned the Kiwis a 20-18 success.
New Zealand went on to suffer a crushing 34-2 defeat by Australia in the final and were beaten by the Kangaroos in this year’s mid-season Test, but avenged that with an emphatic 30-12 victory in the opening round of the current tournament.
Hall accepts England will need to step up their performance tomorrow, but insisted: “I wouldn’t like to say if the Kiwis are a better team than Australia.
“I have yet to experience the Kiwis and they both play different styles. The Kiwis are a bit bigger up front and they offload a lot. It is hard to tell, but we will see after Saturday night.”
Victory over Australia last weekend would have ended the world champions’ hopes of reaching the final and guaranteed an England appearance in the decider.
Steve McNamara’s side conceded 12 points without reply in the second half after leading 12-4 at the interval, but Hall insisted: “We are still really positive and that is one of our strong points going into this game.
“We know how close everything is and we are very much looking forward to it. The average age is quite young and it’s the first time some of these lads have been here.
“They are buzzing to get on the field on Saturday and we know we’re making progress.”
England were given a scare in their opening match, trailing twice before beating Samoa 32-26, but Hall said that has stood them in good stead.
“We had some really good spells and they showed the following week against New Zealand that they are a good team,” he observed.
“I thought we played all right against Samoa and got better against Australia, but they are the world champions and a good side.
“We have been playing all right and we’ve been pretty good in spells, but I think we can get better this week.
“That has been a bit of a theme for us, we have got better as we’ve gone on and hopefully we can get the job done by performing the best we have done this year.
“We are looking forward to it, we’ve just got to do it now.”
The Kiwis have home advantage tomorrow, at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, but Hall feels the move from Australia – where the games against Samoa and the Kangaroos were played – will suit England.
“It’s never easy in any international game, especially in their backyard,” he conceded.
“But at the end of the day it is the same-sized pitch as back in England and probably the same climate. It is quite chilly over here, the same as it is in winter back home, so we feel quite at home.
“But we have got to push past all that and get on with the job.”
Tomorrow’s Four Nations showdown kicks-off at 7am GMT and will be televised live on BBC2.