O’Loughlin: England have plenty to improve on

England skipper Sean OLoughlin takes on the France defence during their 36-6 win yesterday. NRL Photos
England skipper Sean OLoughlin takes on the France defence during their 36-6 win yesterday. NRL Photos

England skipper Sean O’Loughlin has called on his players to up their concentration as they head into the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

They warmed-up for Sunday’s quarter-final against Papua New Guinea with a 36-6 win over France in their final group game yesterday, but were left frustrated with a poor second half display in consecutive weeks.

But O’Loughlin is confident England can improve for the quarter-finals, saying they haven’t yet hit their peak.

“We’ve not hit our straps yet. We have at times but not for a full 80,” he said.

“We’re a little bit disappointed in that but we have enjoyed our football and have played some good stuff at times. We’re looking forward to building on that in the knock-out stages.”

A lightning start saw England lead 26-6 at the break in Perth yesterday before they stuttered in the second half.

O’Loughlin admitted their problems are down to concentration, and that they need to work on the basics.

“In the Lebanon and France games we’ve had two good first halves of rugby and played some pretty entertaining stuff,” he said.

“The second halves have been a bit slack at times and we’ve coughed-up some cheap ball and in turn that affects the way you attack. That’s been disappointing but it’s something we can fix.

“It’s just a bit of a concentration thing going into that second half.

“We need to nail those basics before we try to chuck the ball about a bit.”

Some will point to the fact coach Wayne Bennett reshuffled his line-up, calling Kevin Brown into the side and moving halfback Gareth Widdop to full-back.

But O’Loughlin explained nothing in the way England lined-up hasn’t been tried on the training paddock.

“The boys who’ve come in have done a good job for us. I thought Kev in the halves in the first half was really good,” he said.

“He was really clinical in what he did.

“Those combinations have been rotated in training as well so it’s not the first time the boys have played together. We didn’t come into the game with it being a new combination, we’ve had time to practice.”