England wary of a Kiwis star, who’s long been a thorn in their side
England insist their comfortable win against New Zealand in Denver earlier this year means nothing and are braced for a Kiwi side brimming with belief ahead of the first Test at Hull on Saturday.
Wayne Bennett’s side eased to a 36-18 win at Mile High Stadium last June in Michael Maguire’s first match in charge of the Kiwis.
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But fresh from an impressive 26-24 win over world champions Australia in Auckland earlier this month, Maguire’s side will run out at KC Stadium at 2.30pm local time (11.30pm AEDT) confident of getting the three-match series off to a winning start.
“They looked fantastic in that performance (against Australia) and we’ll have to raise to that,” said England fullback Jonny Lomax.
England nemesis Shaun Johnson sat out the Denver Test due to injury but takes his place in the line-up for a mouth-watering encounter between the sides ranked second and third in the world.
Johnson, who missed the three-match series defeat against England in 2015, has never been on the losing team against the Lions and been a thorn in their side ever since the 2013 World Cup semi-final.
The mercurial playmaker’s sideline kick following his own try in the dying seconds sealed a place in the final and three years later he booted the decisive field goal in a 17-16 Four Nations series win at Huddersfield.
“He’s a special player but they’ve got threats all over the field and we’ll have to be switched on to that,” Lomax said.
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Maguire has named the same 17 players that beat the Kangaroos and said he’s been delighted with the focus shown by his squad following that memorable victory.
“What we achieved in New Zealand… was a start and the players recognise it was just that, a start,” he said.
“Our focus since leaving New Zealand has been fixed on this first Test.
“We have a group of players here who are exceptionally passionate about playing for the jersey.
“There are great signs for where we’re going but we need to make sure we do everything right this week.”
England captain Shaun O’Loughlin said the hosts are desperate to make a bold statement following the 6-0 defeat to Australia in the World Cup final in Brisbane last December.
“We didn’t quite get over the line at the World Cup, which was disappointing, but we felt it was successful (overall),” O’Loughlin said.
“This is the first time we’ve been on our own patch for a couple of years and it’s a good opportunity for the fans to come out and see us play in what should be some real class games.”
England squad: Jon Bateman, George Burgess, Tom Burgess, Daryl Clark, Jake Connor, Oliver Gildart, James Graham, Chris Hill, Josh Hodgson, Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Oliver McGillvary, Richie Myler, Shaun O’Loughlin, Mark Percival, Luke Thompson, Sam Tomkins, Elliott Whitehead, George Williams (two to be omitted).
New Zealand squad: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (capt), Ken Maumalo, Esan Marsters, Joseph Manu, Jordan Rapana, Shaun Johnson, Kodi Nikorima, Jesse Bromwich, Brandon Smith, Jared Waerea-Heagreaves, Kevin Proctor, Issac Liu, James Fisher- Harris. Subs: Kenny Bromwich, Leeson Ah-Mau, Martin Taupau, Adam Blair, Jahrome Hughes, Joseph Tapine (two to be omitted).
Originally published as England wary of a Kiwis star, who’s long been a thorn in their side
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