ENGLAND WILL go into tomorrow’s World Cup clash with Papua New Guinea in good shape, according to Leeds Rhinos centre Kallum Watkins, but he admits they have to improve as the tournament moves into sudden death.
“We’re looking really good,” Watkins said of England, who feature in the last of the quarter-finals.
Coach Wayne Bennett’s side lost to Australia in their opening game before wins over Lebanon and France, and Watkins insisted the time together since they arrived Down Under last month has been well spent.
“We all get on with each other and you spend a lot of time with each other so that’s the most important thing,” he added.
“The past couple of games have been pretty good for us and we’ve still got work to do and stuff to work on, which is great so we can do that on the training field and then produce that in games.
“I think we’ll get better and push on. We know we have a tough challenge ahead and if we can get through that hopefully it puts us on to greater things.”
That’s what it’s all about. The team that is here has earned it on merit and everyone needed an opportunity to play. Wayne has done that with all the players.Kallum Watkins
England have played well in spells, but not yet put together an 80-minute display.
“In the past three games we’ve started well and then probably gone through a couple of patches where we’ve been a bit scratchy at times, especially with the ball,” Watkins reflected.
“I think defensively we’ve been pretty good so we need to continue that and keep improving in that area and obviously with the ball get a little bit more consistency there and apply more pressure on teams.”
Watkins and clubmate Ryan Hall are back in England’s starting side for tomorrow’s clash in Melbourne (5am GMT) after sitting out last week’s win over France.
“I’m well rested,” Watkins said. “Obviously it has been a long season so it was nice to get a rest, but it was also an opportunity for the guys that haven’t played to try and stake a claim for this week.
“That’s what it’s all about. The team that is here has earned it on merit and everyone needed an opportunity to play. Wayne has done that with all the players.”
Papua New Guinea won all their three group games and Watkins warned: “They have been great this year. It’s a great story for them, performances have been really good and we know it will be a tough game and a big challenge.
“The passion and the love of the sport is continuing to grow there and that’s what makes it such a brilliant story. They’ll continue to improve year on year and it is a huge opportunity for them in the quarter-finals. We know it’s a huge challenge for us. We need to be at our best to perform well and beat them.”
Watkins will be back in Melbourne in three months’ time for the World Club Challenge. Leeds are set to face NRL champions Melbourne Storm on February 16 and Watkins described this week’s confirmation of the fixture as “exciting, great news for the club”.
He said: “It’s such a massive opportunity for us to come to Melbourne and try win the World Club. Our club has been successful for many, many years now and the same with Melbourne. It’s a massive, massive game for us and we will have to be at our best. It will be difficult for both sides with the pre-season we have.
“It will be quite short for those coming back from the World Cup, but it will still be a fantastic spectacle to be part of to become the best in the world – and what a way to do it in Melbourne.”
England’s stay in the city has given Watkins a taste of what Rhinos’ players and travelling fans can look forward to.
“It’s a lovely city, a great city and with some fantastic facilities,” he said.
“Hopefully we can bring quite a few fans with us.
“I’m looking forward to coming back here again with the Rhinos boys and taking on the challenge of Melbourne Storm in the World Club final.”