Sloppy Sam Burgess returns as England limp past PNG

MELBOURNE, Australia -- The returning Sam Burgess was a mile off his prolific best as a scrappy and error-prone England defeated Papua New Guinea 36-6 for a place in the Rugby League World Cup semifinals on Sunday, but head coach Wayne Bennett believes there's no need for concern just yet.

The 30-point margin of victory flattered Bennett's side who were ordinary at best for the 80 minutes, finishing with a woeful 56 percent completion rate and an alarming 20 turnovers.

However, despite labelling the game as 'ugly', Bennett isn't convinced an awful lot needs to change ahead of his side's semifinal clash against Tonga next Saturday in Auckland.

"It was the good, the bad and the ugly today," Bennett said when asked to assess the match. "I was concerned [initially] but we've done a lot of good things in this tournament so I think we can move on pretty quickly and improve.

"We're doing a lot of things right at training, we just have to carry it through to the game. If we were having these problems at training then we'd have an issue, but they train as well as anyone I've ever coached so we've just got to get the execution right."

Rabbitohs star Burgess, who was returning to the line-up after recovering from a medial ligament injury sustained in the tournament opener against Australia on October 27th, was a shadow of himself and had very little positive impact on the game.

The 28-year-old was rusty in his return, making several uncharacteristic errors in what was no doubt one of his sloppiest performances in recent memory. His ball handling throughout the match was untidy and on two occasions he even turned the ball over with forward passes.

Defensively he wasn't much better, missing tackle after tackle and labouring to get back and help.

However, Bennett was quick to stand up for his star player insisting he was definitely 100 percent fit, and only going so far as to label Burgess' game as "mixed" when pushed.

One positive to come out of the match for England was the continued emergence of winger Jermaine McGillvary. The 29-year-old scored a first half brace to improve his international record to an astounding 11 tries in 10 appearances.

McGillvary was also instrumental in setting up two other four pointers and combined exceptionally well with Leeds centre Kallum Watkins in attack.

Bennett admits his injection into the national team was long overdue.

"[Last year] everybody said I should put him in the team, so he played the four nations with us and was very good. So he came and played a mid-week test and now he is just growing in confidence."

Should Bennett's side pass their semifinal test in Auckland, then a date with Australia in the final looks all but a certainty.

The Kangaroos are the red-hot favourites to take out the 2017 edition of the Rugby League World Cup, and for good reason. They have won the tournament a record 10 times, boast a star-studded line-up and playing in their own backyard are proving to be almost unbeatable.

For England to have any chance of upsetting Australia, Burgess has to be at his destructive best, their completion rate must skyrocket and turnovers be kept to a minimum.