Supporters of the #WallofWhite were expecting better of their team when taking on the 18th ranked rugby league minnows Lebanon in Sydney on Saturday night.
With the score 22-6 in England’s favour at half-time thanks to four first half tries, you would have expected them to do what Australia and New Zealand have done this weekend – pile on in excess of 50 points.
Yet we saw a lacklustre second half performance which may have been contributed to by Super League referee Ben Thaler’s performance in the middle and a Lebanon side that fire-up early in the second half.
It all starts and ends with the spine.
The full-back role doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem with Stefan Ratchford and Jonny Lomax both having good efforts in the opening games. And despite calls for James Roby to play ahead of Josh Hodgson, the current Raiders rake has the tough approach England need at the back end of the tournament.
After a wonderful season in the Super League, Luke Gale hasn’t hit the ground running at International level. His short kicking game near the Cedar’s tryline was average at best and his general influence on play contributed to England’s paltry seven second half points.
Gareth Widdop doesn’t have the creativity in his game to cover for Gale’s poor execution and this could come back to bite them as early as the Quarter-Finals when they are likely to face a hard-hitting and fast improving Papua New Guinea team in Melbourne.
Forwards Thomas Burgess, Alex Walmsley and James Graham are doing their job but need the support of their spine to bring success to the team and avoid embarrassment at the tournament.
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