England didn't look anything like world beaters when they played poorly in their 34-6 World Cup quarterfinal win over France last weekend, but prop James Graham is confident they are ready to step up in time for tomorrow morning's semifinal against the Kiwis.
Graham, who knows all of the players in the Kiwis team from either playing alongside or against them with the Bulldogs in the National Rugby League, admits they won't be able to put in a sloppy performance again if they want to make it to next weekend's World Cup final in Manchester.
"We need to put in an 80-minute performance and that means completing our sets and cutting out the handling errors," Graham said.
"You can't give a team with the strike power of New Zealand easy, cheap ball.
"You just can't get away with it at that level because the top teams will just wait and punish you.
"It's probably about cutting down our handling errors.
"I play with and against some of them on a week-to-week basis and they are a really, really good side.
"It's going to be a very difficult ask to beat them, but if we believe we can, then we have to give them more problems than other teams have so far."
Neither side could say they've put in a consistent performance in any of their games at the World Cup so far.
The Kiwis have sometimes looked complacent in the second halves when the game has been won, while England have only been able to hit their best form in patches.
"Do we believe we can put in a more complete performance? You've got to haven't you," Graham said.
"We've done it for a number of years - put in a 60-minute performance - and then dropped off during that last 20.
"Or we've not started well and left the mountain too big to climb, so I guess we're going to have to play well in 80 minutes.
"They are a quality forward pack - [Jared] Waerea-Hargreaves is one of the best front-rowers knocking round at the moment.
"It's going to be a very, very tough ask for the middle boys but they've got some great outside backs that carry them awfully strong in [Roger] Tuivasa-Sheck and whoever is going to play fullback this week.
"The centres chip in with strong carries and I could basically rattle off the whole team."
The last time the two teams played against each other in England was in 2011. England won 28-6 in a convincing victory in Hull, but Graham says that result counts for little ahead of this semifinal.
"It was two years ago and no-one is going to be thinking about that," he said.
"Their team has completely changed since then and ours has had one or two changes as well.
"It's two new teams and I'm not one for looking into the history books."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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