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Frank Pritchard in New Zealand's huddle at traininghttp://c1.puntersparadise.net/news/photos/Frank Pritchard in New Zealand's huddle at training-1385163323_n.jpg

Kiwis prepped for tougher England

Frank Pritchard in New Zealand's huddle at training

Defending champions New Zealand might have sailed through to the Rugby League World Cup semi-finals little troubled by lesser opposition, but coach Stephen Kearney insists they are not undercooked.
Kiwis prepped for tougher England
by AAP

By Luke Phillips

LONDON, Nov 22 AFP - Defending champions New Zealand might have sailed through to the Rugby League World Cup semi-finals little troubled by lesser opposition, but coach Stephen Kearney insists they are not undercooked.

Kearney did acknowledge, however, that facing England at Wembley Stadium on Saturday would present a vastly different experience for the Kiwi side that has racked up 186 points for, with just 38 against, in wins over Samoa (42-24), France (48-0), Papua New Guinea (56-10) and Scotland (40-4).

"We've just had to deal with the opposition that was put in front of us in the last three or four weeks," the coach said on Friday.

"They've been really physical contests. I know the scorelines haven't indicated that but if you ask the lads, during the games against Samoa, France, PNG and last week against Scotland, there were periods of the game they were really putting it to us."

Kearney added: "We'll be mindful that obviously it'll be a different kettle of fish on Saturday."

England went down 28-20 to nine-time champions Australia in their opening pool match before going on to beat Ireland (42-0), Fiji (34-12) and then France (34-6) in the quarter-finals.

Kearney said Kiwi preparations had been upped for what is expected to be an English forward-dominated onslaught.

"The guys have picked up the intensity at training this week," he said. "It's been a little bit scary watching sometimes, to be fair.

"We've made the group well aware of the challenge that we face and what England will present us, so we needed to up the intensity.

"We can only prepare as we have."

Kearney also played down any lack of experience from younger starters in the team, such as 20-year-old Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, the winger nailing down a starting berth after a string of impressive displays.

"Roger's one that comes to mind," Kearney said when asked about some players' relative international inexperience, explaining that the winger had mistaken Wembley for Wimbledon.

"I don't think he knew where Wembley was. He made a comment that he doesn't watch tennis - which is probably a good thing!

"But he's played in the biggest games in the NRL this year, in the Grand Final, nothing seems to faze him.

"I think they'll be okay, there's a few guys out there with a fair bit of experience to look after them."

Kearney, who will be without injured duo Manu Vatuvei (groin) and Frank Pritchard (hamstring), added: "Our focus is on our performance.

"If we prepare like we have done and perform to our capabilities, we give ourselves every opportunity (of winning)."


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