New Zealand vs England: Will Greenwood backs Marcus Smith to bounce back in second Test

10 July 2024, 10:56 | Updated: 10 July 2024, 15:35

Will Greenwood has backed Marcus Smith to bounce back from missing several crucial kicks as England seek to reverse their first-Test defeat to New Zealand on Saturday.

England produced a hugely impressive performance but lost 16-15 in Dunedin, with Smith leaving a possible eight points on the table as the fly-half missed two penalties and a conversion.

Despite the disappointment of defeat, there were plenty of positives to take away for England, with Smith's general play among the encouraging elements for head coach Steve Borthwick.

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Greenwood, a 2003 Rugby World Cup winner for England, said he expects Smith to address and resolve the issues that caused him to miss the crucial kicks.

"I think throwing the video away and putting it down as a one-off would probably be naïve," Greenwood told Sky Sports. "If Rory McIlroy only hits two fairways out of 14, he doesn't just leave it, he goes and spends three hours on the range after a round and fixes it.

"Marcus will look at it with a far more qualified kicking coach than me and find that he's just got something slightly wrong, and under the white heat and pressure of Test match rugby, it can cost you.

"But I'm always keen to separate those two roles. You've got a fly-half to orchestrate a team, to get the team into the right positions on the field and give themselves the best chance of scoring. I think he's making massive progress there.

"Then there's the kicking side of it, which almost goes from being a team sport to being a golfer, to being a tennis player where he'll have his own private methods of working on it and his own coaches and people he'll listen to, that he'll try to fix it with.

"And I've got absolutely faith that next time he has a touchline conversion, he'll bang it over. Or at least, he'll stand up over it, saying, 'I'm going to bang this over'."

'I loved it!' - Greenwood impressed by England

Since starting 2024 with a defeat to Scotland and unconvincing victories over Wales and Italy, England have responded with a series of encouraging performances.

Borthwick's side pulled off a stunning Six Nations victory over Ireland in March before narrowly losing out to France in Lyon a week later. They then comprehensively beat Japan in June before Saturday's promising display against New Zealand.

"I loved it," Greenwood said of England's performance in Dunedin. "As we've gone on in 2024, probably from the start of March, it's been fun to watch.

"All England fans want to win all games. I get that. Sometimes, having been involved in rugby for so long, I'm less bothered about results and I'm more bothered about watching a great game and I'm more bothered about watching England's performance.

"Since March, I'm loving what I'm seeing. Both sides of the ball, youthful energy, dynamism, outlook to play, ruggedness, authentic in media on and off the field - which I know is irrelevant but when you're watching as a fan you want to feel like the messages you're hearing, the players themselves believe. The messages you're hearing from the coaches are translating into performances on the pitch.

"I think it's quite a good time to be an England rugby fan."

How England can win the second Test

England have the chance to respond on Saturday in Auckland but face the daunting task of attempting to become the first side to beat New Zealand at Eden Park for 30 years.

Greenwood was part of the last England team to win in New Zealand, as Jonny Wilkinson kicked them to victory in 2003, months before their World Cup triumph in Australia.

If this England side are to emulate the 2003 squad, and continue to progress beyond this tour, Greenwood believes they need to take more risks in possession.

"I think collectively, the keys will be more line breaks and more offloads," he said.

"Those are two areas where they've got to trust leaving the ball in space and someone tracking you. I think there's been a couple of opportunities where they've quite rightly taken the safe option, looked after the ball, but it's then created slow ball and forced us to kick.

"I'm not in any way suggesting you're running it from everywhere. That's not necessarily realistic against the might of this All Blacks side, but I do think in the close quarters, the more balls we can get away either before contact or in controlled contact, move it away, England will continue progressing beautifully."

Watch the second Test between New Zealand and England at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday July 13 live on Sky Sports Action from 7.30am; kick-off 8.05am. Also stream contract-free with NOW.