ENGLAND captain Sean O’Loughlin is confident the tourists can quickly recover from their shattering defeat by Australia as they look to take out their frustrations on the Kiwis.
The England squad arrived in Dunedin on Monday evening to begin their preparations for their crunch clash with Stephen Kearney’s men at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday, when a victory by 10 points would secure a place in the final a week later.
O’Loughlin, who returned from a quad muscle strain to lead England for the first time in their 16-12 defeat by the Kangaroos in Melbourne on Sunday, has been cleared, along with his Wigan team-mate Liam Farrell, to play against the Kiwis after both men were put on report in the early stages of the game at AAMI Park.
Saturday’s match would have been a dress rehearsal for the Wellington final had England winger Ryan Hall not been controversially denied a last-minute try by video referee Bernard Sutton, and O’Loughlin admits his side are still coming to terms with the heartbreak.
“It was a very disappointed dressing room,” O’Loughlin said. “We felt we had done enough to get the win.
“I only saw it on the big screen but, for me, Ryan looked like he touched it and most of the boys felt it was a try.
“But it wasn’t all about that final play, there were probably other parts of the game that cost us.
“I thought we put in a real strong performance. It was a tough arm wrestle of a game but I felt we dominated areas of the game, it was just some small per cents here and there burnt us a little bit.
“They’ve got some real class individuals and I thought we did a good job on them for probably 90 per cent of the game.
“We let in a couple of tries in the second half which was disappointing but I thought we had scraped it in the end, we just didn’t get the result.
“It was a great opportunity to get a win but we have to crack on from this.
“To not get the win is tough but we know we’ve got another game and we can put it right here.
“We’ve got our travelling done early and we’ll soon be back out on the pitch.”
Saturday’s meeting with the Kiwis will be the first since England’s even more heartbreaking 20-18 defeat in the World Cup semi-final at Wembley last November, when Shaun Johnson scored a try with 20 seconds left on the clock and then kicked the conversion to put his side into the final.
England have a good record against the Kiwis at home but it is 22 years since Great Britain last won in New Zealand and Steve McNamara’s men suffered a 24-10 defeat on their last visit to the Shaky Isles in the 2010 Four Nations Series.
“If we want to be involved in the final, that’s the way going to have to do it,” said O’Loughlin, who was in the team that lost at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium four years ago.
“They are a strong side and they turned the Aussies over.”
McNamara will name his team on Tuesday morning and O’Loughlin and Farrell are sure to included after avoiding suspension.
The captain, who reported no ill-effects from his comeback from injury, was put on report for an alleged trip on Australian hooker Cameron Smith while Farrell was reported for a possible “chicken wing” tackle on full-back Greg Inglis that incensed Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens.
Australia forward Greg Bird was also put on report for an alleged “spear” tackle on O’Loughlin but he, too, avoided any punishment after an NRL spokesman confirmed that no charges were brought from the two matches over the weekend.
However, Bird’s second-row partner Beau Scott will miss Australia’s final round-robin game against Samoa in Wollongong on Sunday after suffering a low-grade hamstring tear in the opening stages of the game in Melbourne.
Scott, who had scans in Melbourne on Monday, will remain in camp with the squad ahead of a potential return if Australia clinch their place in the final.