Endacott: Pressure is on England

Former New Zealand coach Frank Endacott says England is under pressure to win the upcoming Test series because of the rookie halves the Kiwis will be forced to field.

Regular halfback pairing Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran are unavailable through injury, while stand-off Benji Marshall has been overlooked.

Utility Thomas Leuluai, who would be expected to fill in as a half, is also injured.

New Zealand are expected to field 20-year old Tuimoala Lolohea and 21-year old Kodi Nikorima as their halves in the three match series. 

Utility Nikorima made his NRL debut for Brisbane this year while New Zealand Warrior Lolohea has played mostly at fullback, centre and on the wing. The pair have less than 50 games of NRL experience combined.

“I believe the pressure is definitely on England to win this series as this is their best opportunity to win since 2007,” Endacott, who coached the Kiwis from 1995 to 2000, said.

“If they cannot win this series they could be waiting a long time. New Zealand come to the UK with their most inexperienced halves pairing ever, however the two rookies Tui Lolohea and Kodi Nikorima are both exciting young players. 

“If England select Gareth Widdop and Sam Tomkins in the halves, then it will give them a huge advantage. Stephen Kearney may yet partner a smokey with Lolohea, for example Tohu Harris, as he has done this before but I believe that is not the answer.”

New Zealand is missing several other first-choice players including captain Simon Mannering, winger Manu Vatuvei and forward Jason Taumaolo. In total they have seven uncapped players in their squad.

Endacott believes the Kiwi team is the most inexperienced to tour the UK for some time.

“The NZ team is the most inexperienced since 2007, when New Zealand lost all three tests,” the former Wigan coach said. 

“We have many ‘first picks’ out but there is still enough talented players to push England. New Zealand have a big tough pack of forwards and talented outside backs, our weakness is in the halves. 

“Stephen Kearney has his reasons for not selecting Benji, but I would have taken him and paired him with Lolohea as this would help the youngster for the future.”

Regardless of the missing Kiwi players, Endacott feels the series will still be close. 

“This will be a very close series and I believe it will be a 2-1 result either way,” he said. 

“But I say again England will never get a better opportunity if they select the correct 17.”

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