England composed amid the chaos

Across four decades as a coach he has just about seen it all by now, but even from Wayne Bennett this reaction came as a surprise.

After England leaked three tries in the space of five minutes, and dodged a late winning try claim by Andrew Fifita, to escape with a 20-18 victory over Tonga on Saturday night, Bennett claimed he had hardly batted an eyelid in the closing exchanges of the semi-final in Auckland.

"Na, I wasn't nervous," the veteran mentor said.

"I just wanted the full-time hooter to go, but nothing else [was going through my mind].

"The time clock was on our side."

The cool approach from Bennett appeared to have rubbed off on his players on the field, with fullback Gareth Widdop revealing there had been little panic among the English squad as Tevita Pangai Junior, Siliva Havili and Tuimoala Lolohea scored in quick succession to bring much of the 30,003-strong crowd to life at Mount Smart Stadium.

"Wayne's calmness certainly does rub off, he has been around a long time now and has been in the business and done a lot of good things," Widdop said.

"He's great for our group. He's calm, he's cool, and that's what we needed.

"The last six or seven minutes they got a roll on there, but we stayed composed as much as we could until the end and got the win."

England had looked comfortably in control of the match heading into the final 10 minutes, holding a 20-0 lead and having kept Tonga out from any significant scoring opportunities thanks to an organised defensive structure which frustrated Tonga into a glut of errors. 

They had also been accurate in attack, where, led by the brilliance of new fullback Widdop, England got over for three tries and dominated positive field position.

Post-match Bennett paid tribute to his side's defensive effort, but admitted it wouldn't be enough to get the job done next week against the Kangaroos in the final.

"It was a quality game of football, [Tonga] had some chances they probably should have taken as well, but we kept turning up in defence which was great. At the end of the day our defence won us the game," Bennett said.

"[It was] probably not [good enough to beat Australia], but we will be there next week, we'll still go to the game.

"We are a better team than we were last year, we wouldn't have won this game last year."

Meanwhile England look set to be without veteran hooker Josh Hodgson (knee) and captain Sean O'Loughlin (quad) for the final, with both players leaving the field with injuries against on Saturday.

"I'm not sure what's going on there [with Josh], I don't think he will be alright to play next week, you don't normally limp off like that and play next week," Bennett said.

"Sean will be in some doubt too."