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“The English game is slow” – Kristian Woolf says heavy conditions hampered Tonga

England have just gone one game up in their three game test series against Tonga courtesy of a 22-18 victory at the Totally Wicked Stadium, but the surface at St Helens’ home has come under question from the Tonga boss.

Tonga are of course coached by former St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf however he appeared unhappy of the surface and suggested that it was a key reason as to why his Tongan side struggled, particularly in the second half.

After a weekend of torrential rain the game was actually played in beautiful sunshine however the pitch had certainly sustained plenty of the heavy rainfall that had come in the previous 72 hours.

Speaking to the BBC after the game Woolf spoke of the pride of his team, but was heavily critical of both the English game and conditions.

“I’m proud of our effort, I thought we showed that we’re here to play and that’s definitely the case, and we’re here to try and win a series,” Woolf explained.

“Our blokes are going to get lots of confidence out of that, we’re a very new team and the bit of footie in the legs will do us good as we’ve got blokes that haven’t played for six or seven weeks.”

Referencing the St Helens surface and differing style of play, Woolf stated.

“We’re only going to get better and they’ll also get used to the English conditions, not just the weather and the field, but the way the ruck is and just how slow a game it is I suppose.

“We’ll learn from that and we’ll be better in how we deal with it.

“Obviously it’s a different field as well, it’s a bit heavier than what we get in Australia and I thought that showed at times during the game and a few of our blokes were looking a bit heavy legged.

“They just couldn’t get their momentum and their footing that they need for such big men. We know that Huddersfield is a good track so it’ll be a bit stronger under the feet and I think that’s going to suit us.”

The Tongans had headed into the dressing rooms at half time with the scores level at 12-12 but an exceptional cut-out pass from Jack Welsby played Tom Johnstone in, before the Catalans winger capitalised on a handling error to intercept and run in a second.

Tonga did score late on to set up a tense final two minutes but England hung on for a solid victory, although one that Shaun Wane felt could certainly be improved upon.

“There’s lots to improve on, us as a team, we did some really good things for short periods but not for long enough. We can do a lot better than that,” Wane also told the BBC.

The two sides will face off again in six days time at Huddersfield’s John Smiths’ Stadium with England looking to secure the series victory.

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