We've gone backwards, claims Great Britain Lions coach Bennett

By Patric Ridge 9 November 2019 4
We've gone backwards, claims Great Britain Lions coach Bennett

Wayne Bennett offered no excuses for Great Britain Lions' dismal form on the tour of New Zealand and is concerned his side have gone backwards.

Great Britain - touring as the Lions for the first time since 2007 - have lost all three of their Tests, one against a Tonga Invitational XIII and two versus New Zealand.

Their form hit a new low on Saturday in Christchurch, as the Kiwis cruised to a 23-8 victory.

Bennett acknowledged Great Britain's performances have not been up to scratch, and with only two players in the squad not capped by England – who he has coached since 2016 – he feels they have regressed since reaching the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final.

"They played much better than we did, that's probably the best way of summing it up. There could be a thousand excuses, but that's the reality," Bennett told a news conference.

"We're back to where we were in 2016 when I first came in as coach. We're not respecting the opposition enough with how much discipline we have to play with.

"I'm not happy we're going backwards. I think we've gone backwards a little bit from what last year and the World Cup year was, compared with how we've played this series.

"It's probably a whole lot of things. To come out at the start and play the nines, we only had half a team and then a week of preparation, a lot of little things there, but the bottom line is New Zealand have played really well in the last few games and we're just a bit off the pace.

"Next year and the World Cup year are the prime years. There have been a lot of players here who haven't played before, tried a few different combinations. If we have to have a bit of a stumble, this is the year to do it in, rather than next year or the year after."

Seven Great Britain players ply their trade in the NRL, and Bennett pointed to the gap in quality between Super League and the Australian competition as another factor in the poor results.

"I think one of the things that affected us this time is that we didn't have a mid-season Test and our preparation time going into the Tonga game wasn't enough," Bennett added.

"Also, virtually every player in the New Zealand, Australia and Tonga teams play in the NRL. There's a standard in the NRL and we have to come up to that standard." 

Great Britain round off their tour against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby on November 16.

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Patric Ridge