England coach Tony Smith put on a brave face after watching his side struggle to get past minnows Papua New Guinea in their opening match of the tournament. Leeds winger Lee Smith scored a hat-trick of tries on his debut but England's performance will hardly have defending champions Australia quaking in their boots ahead of Sunday's clash in Melbourne. And to compound England's concerns, Smith picked up a foot injury duing Saturday's game.
He is the only casualty from the match but an England spokesman said it was too early to say if he is doubtful for the weekend's game at the Telstra Dome. The Kumuls had threatened to pull off one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history on Saturday when they scored three tries in a 21-minute spell to lead 16-12 at half-time but, when their first-half heroics took their toll, England pulled away to register an unconvincing victory.
Smith has a 100 per cent record from his seven matches in charge of the national team, even though his side were severely tested. ""I'm glad we had a game. We found out a whole lot about ourselves, which is good," he said. "It's given us plenty to work on. We are going to have a busy week. We're rusty but to come up with a win is a great attribute. "A lot of teams would fall in a hole in those situations."
Smith's half-time pep talk appeared to shake his side, although they were grateful for assistance from Australian referee Shayne Hayne when he disallowed a try by winger David Moore for a marginal forward pass early in the second half. * PA Sport