Matt Encarnacion, NRL.com
New Zealand centre Dean Whare warns his team must quickly find the consistency it needs to compete with World Cup heavyweights Australia and England following their rusty victory over Samoa.
The Kiwis opened their tournament with an unconvincing 42-24 win, racing out to a 36-4 lead before watching their lead disintegrate to 12 with just 15 minutes to go.
Luckily for the defending world champions, Toa Samoa were unable to complete the comeback but Whare, who was named Man of the Match, said his team would be foolish not to learn their lesson.
“In the first half there, we were very strong and dominant,” Whare said post-game. “It’s just being more consistent there for the whole 80 minutes. Up to the latter stages, we can’t come 20 minutes in, 20 minutes out.
“When you come up to Australia and England, they’re going to take those opportunities and waltz away if you don’t learn from those mistakes.”
Appearing in just his fourth Test for New Zealand, Whare, 23, made a game-high three line breaks, ran 126m, set up a try and a hand in another.
“You can’t play bad when you’ve got Sonny Bill [Williams] and Shaun Johnson inside you giving you early balls,” Whare said.
“Credit to the team, most of it goes to our forwards. In the first half, they were laying a great platform for us and all we had to do was finish it off on the edges.”
The Kiwis have already arrived in Avignon, France, where they will meet the co-hosts on Saturday morning (AEDT) before their final group game against Papua New Guinea on November 9 (AEDT).
A win against the French, who scored a thrilling 9-8 victory over PNG in their first game, would secure a spot in the quarter-finals.
Squad members who didn’t feature in the Samoa win, including Greg Eastwood, Alex Glenn, Krisnan Inu, Thomas Leuluai, Kevin Locke, Ben Matulino and Jason Nightingale, will all come into contention to make their first appearance of the tournament.