Rugby League World Cup: Steve McNamara confident of England's chances
Last Updated: 07/11/13 12:55pm
Steve McNamara: In confident mood ahead of Fiji clash
England coach Steve McNamara took his squad to a bonfire on Tuesday and is confident their World Cup hopes will be burning just as brightly after Saturday's final Group A fixture with Fiji.
McNamara's men bounced back from their opening 28-20 defeat by Australia with a 42-0 rout of Ireland and will secure runners-up spot in Group A if they can see off the Fijians at Hull's KC Stadium.
England, who are likely to play Samoa or France in the quarter-finals, remain third favourites to lift the title for the first time since 1972, and McNamara has no quarrel with the bookmakers.
"I would agree with that," McNamara said. "Australia have been the benchmark for years and New Zealand are the current world champions.
"I'm of the same opinion I was before the start of the tournament - I think we've got a squad that is capable of achieving success in this tournament if we perform near our very best."
Despite cruising to an eight-try victory over the Irish, McNamara believes his side will need to find more improvement if they are stay on course for a likely semi-final clash with the Kiwis at Wembley.
"We got a zero next to our name last week but I actually felt we defended better the week before against Australia," he said. "We had a bit more about us.
"Attack-wise against Ireland, we found some rhythm for a period in that game but we need to do it a bit more.
"We have got a squad capable of achieving success but only if it finds that consistency in both sides of the game when it really matters."
For Saturday's match McNamara expects to be able to pick from a full-strength squad, which is now down to 23 following the withdrawal of Zak Hardaker for personal reasons.
Sam Burgess will be back from suspension and McNamara is confident that younger brother George will line up alongside him after making good progress in his recovery from a knee injury that curtailed his involvement against Ireland.
"George had a great start to the tournament against Australia at the Millennium Stadium, where I think he was one of our stand-out performers," McNamara said.
"He was crocked after 14 minutes last Saturday and could probably have gone back if we felt it was needed. But, with what was coming up for the rest of the tournament, it was the right situation for us not to risk him anymore."
McNamara is full of praise for England's medical and physiotherapy staff but is also mindful of the need to vary his players' activities to keep them fresh during a long tournament, hence the bonfire visit.
"They are in probably the best shapes of their lives," he said. "It's about managing the mind rather than the body - your body will do what your mind tells you.
"They're fresh and ready to go and really looking forward to the challenge this week."