Much has been said of England’s ‘back three’ this week.
Sam Tomkins, Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe have all been on the receiving end of some particularly complimentary press coverage over the past seven days, as it seems England have finally found a three quarter line with enough attacking potency and defensive capabilities to deal with Australia and New Zealand.
Once again the trio proved themselves to be the world class set of backs that England have been searching for over the past 10 years on Saturday night.
Tomkins showed exactly why Wigan have tied him down to the sport for another 3 years at least, producing a magical performance from full back. Numerous times he wreaked havoc on New Zealand’s defence, especially from his kick returns. His lightning pace and exceptional footwork was simply too good for New Zealand, as it was for the Australians last week.
Ryan Hall continued exactly where he left off last week against the Australians, with another sublime finish in the corner, made possible by his phenomenal upper body strength. New Zealand seemed to target him with kicks in the first half but Hall, undaunted as ever, remained strong and delivered a massive performance both in attack and defence.
On the other wing, Tom Briscoe, fresh from having a perfectly good try ruled out at Wembley, opened the scoring for England and was unlucky not to reach the line again after breaking away from his own half.
For too long, England, and formerly Great Britain, have been overpowered and overran out wide by the two powerhouses from the Southern hemisphere.
No longer though, are England relying on playing people out of position in an attempt to combat the skill and speed of their counterparts. Despite prowess in their natural positions, the likes of Lee Gilmour and Richard Horne (who have both played out wide for England in the past) would never be able to consistently pose a threat to the Australian back line like the current crop do.
However, with the current trio in the side, its not inconceivable to presume that England might have a consistent and natural back three for the next five years at least.
Ably supported by a pack who dominated the Kiwis from the first minute, England appear to have found a XIII capable of dealing with the threat that Australia and New Zealand pose.
Despite New Zealand’s obvious strength, (hence being both World and Four Nation champions) Australia are a different kettle of fish altogether.
Whereas an injury to Tomkins would immediately cause havoc in England’s ranks, the Australians have ready made back ups for the inspirational Billy Slater, who are raring to be given an opportunity on the international stage.
The test at Elland Road next week will be whether England can consistently battle with the Australians, and show that their fighting spirit at Wembley was not just a one off.
If they are to do this, the back three in a white shirt will have a huge role to play. If they win their personal battles against their opposite numbers, there is every chance that England could walk away from Leeds with not only pride, but a result to their name. Could!