2 days ago
Stevo: Final throw of the dice
Great Britain's mentality going into this has to be to win the game.
Yes, the points margin is an issue, but they cannot afford to go out there and throw the ball around with gay abandon: the most important fact is they must beat New Zealand.
The first 20 minutes will be vital to their chances. If they can build say an eight-point lead, then they can think about taking a chance or two.
Of course, having already been beaten by a very good Kiwi side, that is easier said than done, but I do believe it is possible.
Yes New Zealand have improved no end under Brian McClennan and surprised us all, but they are by no means world-beaters yet.
They are also without two a big player in Lance Hohaia at the Galpharm and there has to be some concern over Stacey Jones. First he was out of the series, now he has been brought back in, but will he be 100 per cent? His creative and organisational skills are crucial to this New Zealand side.
But this is all about Great Britain. They have to do things differently. We have to be realistic and suggest their skill factor is not as high as the Kiwis or Australians, but they have to ask more questions going forward.
The effort is not an issue, never has been. The likes of Jamie Peacock, Stuart Fielden and Adrian Morley will run through brick walls for four days on end, never mind 80 minutes, but when they do run through those walls we don't seem to have the ability to off-load or the men waiting in support.
You have to hurt defences and the best way to do that is to slip the tackle and let someone else take up the charge and that is something we find extremely difficult to do.
I think that is down to the way we play our game in Super League, but we all saw Ben Kennedy's off-load in atrocious conditions last week when other sides would have just closed the game out, and the devastating effect it had.
The only Great Britain player who can do that in any shape or form is Kieron Cunningham and it is no coincidence that all four of their Tri-Nations tries have come from the St Helens man doing just that. But New Zealand will know if they close him down, they negate the Lions forwards, so it is up to the others to start doing something different.
Australia always seem to have a man in support on either side and we have to do the same.
At the moment they lack that killer instinct, that ability and confidence to try something else and that is why Great Britain didn't make anything like the most of the excellent possession and field position they enjoyed at the JJB.
We need players that can put the Kiwis defence in two minds. Right now Great Britain have been a little one-dimensional going forward. Cunningham has showed the way and Mickey Higham also did it running from dummy-half, but other than that, there has been plenty of perspiration but little inspiration.
As I said before last week's game, we had the slowest half-back pairing in the world as it is, so even if they made the break, they are not going to get very far!
Which is why I am glad Richard Horne will get a go. Richard would be the first to admit he has not had a fantastic season for Hull, but it will be a wonderful opportunity for him and he does have a great step and good pace which would just put something else in the back of Kiwi minds. And like I say, Great Britain have to ask questions of them.
I would also like to see them switch players more. Last time out against New Zealand David Solomona and Ali Lauitiiti punched constant holes down our right-hand side against Brian Carney and Gleeson and you'd expect them to do exactly the same this time.
I see nothing wrong with moving Paul Johnson out to the wing to combat that, even if it is only temporarily.
After all he filled in after Carney went off in the Loftus Road debacle. Leon Pryce may well start out wide as well, but this lad has got pace to burn, so what is wrong with moving him infield now and then, even just from set-pieces and allowing him take the fight to them?
And can we please see a break? Keith Senior and Martin Gleeson haven't made one between them in two games! As I said, our half-backs haven't done it so far, but we are not going to win a game of rugby league at any level playing in front of the opposition.
I wonder whether Brian had seriously considered springing a surprise in bringing Mark Calderwood in. He is the fastest man we've got, he scored the most tries last season and I am sure his performance for England against the Kiwis on Sunday will have not gone unnoticed.
His speed in applying pressure would have been a useful tool. If you asked me the one thing that would cause havoc for New Zealand it would have been a couple of 40-20's, but to be fair to the coach, there were some improvements at the JJB and I am sure he is looking for another step up this time around.
As long as the Lions start to ask them questions and as long as they have the dimension to give them something else to think about, I can see that happening.
STEVO SAYS... GREAT BRITAIN
I happen to think Great Britain will win. If they can match them in their defensive patterns, the Kiwis are susceptible to falling down in that defensive line. They are great with ball in hand and are very pretty to watch, but they are a long way off invincible. But of course, it all depends on Great Britain's ability to do something different to what we've seen. They have to win the game before they can worry about points margins, but by the same token, they have to eek away at that 36-point gap. It might sound like running before we can walk, but it's no good winning by two points, that would mean having to beat the Aussies by 34. If that happens they may as well move the Tri-Nations final to Fantasy Island!
- - - - -
Stevo's column appears regularly on www.skysports.com. We thank Sky Sports UK in reproducing his article here.