Coach Wayne Bennett won’t be drawn on his Great Britain and England future
UNDER-FIRE COACH Wayne Bennett would not be drawn on his future with England and Great Britain following a disastrous end to the Lions’ dismal southern hemisphere tour.
A 28-10 loss to Papua New Guinea left Great Britain with a record of played four, lost four, having scored only five tries and 32 points.
Bennett has been widely criticised by fans and media for his squad and team selection and the Rugby Football League, whose head of performance is Leeds Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield, must now decide whether to keep him on for England’s Ashes Test series next year and the 2021 World Cup.
Bennett’s contract expired after the humiliation in Port Moresby and questioned about his future, he insisted: “We’ll wait and see and have some discussions.”
He said: “Tonight’s not a good night to make decisions, we are emotional and not in a good place. Coaching’s taught me that much, don’t make decisions within 24 hours.
“I don’t think I show anywhere that I don’t have the appetite for it, but it’s not my decision.”
The Lions’ tour began with defeat by Tonga and they also suffered back-to-back losses to New Zealand before the reverse in PNG.
“We had some great moments, but not a great tour,” Bennett said, adding: “I am obviously disappointed and feel we’ve underachieved, but it is what it is.
“We played quality teams [and] you all need to have a look at what’s happened with the international game.
“To the credit of the international game, it has been going on for five or six years now and we are starting to see the benefits of it now when they are playing more Test matches and there’s more competition.
“We’ve seen the emergence of Tonga and seen how much [PNG] has improved. Samoa’s much-improved, the boys all want to play for their country now.
“While we’ve got to swallow a bitter pill, on the other side of it the game is getting stronger.”
Great Britain did not have a mid-season Test this year and the coach stressed: “England and Great Britain can’t sit back and think they’ve come out of good competitions and they’ve got good players [so] they can come under-prepared into these.
“Australia have an Origin series behind them, New Zealand played us after playing Australia at the end of the season, so everyone’s doing more preparation than we are. If we want to compete with them we’ve got to get ourselves back to that level.”
Tries by Blake Austin and Josh Hodgson, plus a Gareth Widdop conversion, eased the Lions into a 10-0 lead, but they collapsed after Edwin Ipape scored a long-range try – improved by Kyle Laybutt – just before the break.
Feeding on the Lions’ errors, Justin Olam, Watson Boas, Alex Johnston and Nixon Putt all added second half tries, three of which Leeds Rhinos’ Rhyse Martin converted.
Bennett refused to blame the early loss of skipper James Graham, to a head knock, for the loss, but conceded the Lions’ ball control was not good enough.
Summing up the game, Bennett said: “They played pretty good, Papua New Guinea.
“We had some great moments in the game, but they played, I reckon, about 42 minutes at their best and we played about 38 at our best and they got more points than we did.”
Papua New Guinea: Johnston, Gebbie, Mead, Olam, Amean, Laybutt, Boas, W Albert, Puara Jr, Page, Put, Russell, Martin. Subs Ipape, Lo, S Albert, Meninga.
Great Britain: Lomax, McGillvary, Hughes, Connor, Austin, Widdop, Hastings, Hill, Hodgson, Burgess, Bateman, Whitehead, Graham. Subs: Thompson, Walmsley, Philbin, Williams.
Referee: Grant Atkins (Australia).