The Martin Gleeson Column: Cut the errors and we’ll make the final

Sean O'Loughlin is 'preparing for his second World Cup semi-final. He played for England against New 'Zealand in 2013
Sean O'Loughlin is 'preparing for his second World Cup semi-final. He played for England against New 'Zealand in 2013
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For whatever reason, everything seems to be looking our way at the moment.

I don’t mean just with what England are doing, but other results, Fiji knocking New Zealand out, Tonga being run close against Lebanon, there is an opportunity for us here.

I thought Tonga would thrash Lebanon last weekend, but retrospectively you can look back and you can see that the New Zealand game took a lot out of them, and you can see how much they got themselves up for that.

On their day Tonga are sensational but can they go back to back when they face us on Saturday?

They did the job – they won – but I think the New Zealand game has worn them out. They may have gone into the Lebanon match a bit complacent or drained of emotion but the main thing is they got through it. They’ll have to rise again from that.

England’s performance against Papua New Guinea was one of those. There were some good bits but there were also loads of errors.

We’ve not nailed a performance yet but are still coming up with victories.

Alright it’s going to have to be a step-up in performance again but I think our time is running out as far as we’re going to need a complete performance right away.

It’s hard to tell from our quarter-final for a few reasons. It was more of a physical and intense game that drained the PNG guys so their game plan fell apart. It’s also hard to tell because they were smashing teams in the groups but the quality of the teams they were smashing was not up there.

I honestly didn’t think Fiji would beat New Zealand in their match partly because of that theory. But their game was brilliant to watch.

I’ve never seen a no-try game but there were breaks, offloads and it was good to watch. That’ll put Fiji in great stead not just for this week, but the future.

They rely on individual brilliance and broken play but they’re not going to get that against the Aussies this weekend.

Maybe they might spy the odd one but not enough to get them through – they haven’t got the subtleties and the skill to break Australia.

Australia looked rampant against Samoa, it was their best performance.

As far as England are concerned, there are a lot of positives but we’ve not fully hit our straps yet.

We certainly can’t have as many errors against Tonga as there were last weekend.

We have to go set for set with them, be low on errors and put them in corners.

They come alive when they’ve got the ball in a good position so we have to restrict that as much as possible. We have to keep kicking, turning them around and play basics against them really well. We have to test their stamina.

We’re fitter than them, we’re a fit team, but if we try and outplay and out-offload Tonga we’ll probably come up short. But if we play a low risk game – we’ve got to target their big men and take the juice out of them, make their danger man do a lot of tackling – we’ll be in the final.

On Saturday we need to test the middle out, so the game plan for us this week has to be pretty smart and they’re going to have to nail it. If we get an eight out of 10 performance I think we’ll win.

No disrespect to Tonga but they’re no New Zealand or Australia of the last few years. You don’t normally get this run which we’ve got so we have to take it.

I know they’ve got Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita but as a team they’ve never been here before.

This England team is a settled team and has been for the past year since Wayne Bennett took over. Okay, he’s changed bits but he’s had the same core so I think Tonga probably don’t know each other as well playing-wise as we do.

They’re a brand new team and have done really well but can they go again?

We’ve got to not give them any opportunities in this game. We can’t turn over cheap ball and give them those boosts they’ll thrive on. Especially in front of a partisan crowd in Auckland.

It’s really tough to call because you don’t know which team from either camp will turn up.

It’s going to be on the day. I’d definitely say we’re favourites and in a good position here. We have the experience as a group and you’ve got to see it as a golden opportunity to get to a first final since 1995 but we’ve got to play well. We have to improve again.

Our defence has been really good for the majority of the World Cup, but our attack can still be better. It’s just silly things that should be easy to fix. There were 18 errors last week and I bet Australia haven’t made that in the tournament so far.

But on the flip side we’ve made them and scored 36 points – albeit against PNG. This World Cup just keeps leaving you with questions, more than answers.

One thing for certain though is I just see opportunities. If you said who’d you want in the semi-final you’d pick Tonga out of who is left and I would think Australia would have picked Fiji.

You’ve got to think we have a eight or nine-out-of-10 performance coming up.

You can’t be scraping along because sooner or later you will get beaten.

But we’ll realise that. We knew early doors last week we’d won, you can tell in a game. When we’re in those moments in more intense games you’d like to think we can step up when we need to – we’ve not had to yet.

This now is an opportunity to do something special.

If we nail a performance I think we’ve also got the ability to beat Australia.

It’s one of the biggest chances we’re going to get to win a competition before the new breed comes in.

I disagree with some of the things the coach is doing with selection but that’s done now. He’ll get judged if we lose against Tonga but he also will if we win and we have to get behind them now.

He’s made his mind up apart from a few little tweaks. I think James Roby has been awesome and bridging Alex Walmsley over Chris Heighington was overdue but it’s better late than never.

But it’s not all about that now. As an England fan now you have to see it as a slightly open door here.

We could win it, but we could get beaten on Saturday. We just have to back them.