Bennett denies showing disrespect

Wayne Bennett was pleased with his first England performance
Wayne Bennett was pleased with his first England performance

Wayne Bennett denied England had disrespected France by flying to Avignon hours before their 40-6 victory.

French boss Aurelien Cologni took a swipe at their opponents’ tactic in the build-up to Bennett’s first match in charge on the national side.

“(It) is very off,” he had said about England’s travel plans.

“This attitude doesn’t match the status of being selected at this level.”

But Bennett, pleased with a comfortable win, said: “I pretty much worked on instructions. I was pretty happy with what was worked out and we didn’t disrespect anyone.

“No-one mentioned to me being here early to promote the game. It was decided that the best way to do it was to jet in this morning and that worked for us.”

France took the lead through Eloi Pelissier during a bright start, before an experimental England side - missing captain Sam Burgess and five Grand Finalists - pressed home their superiority.

Winger Ryan Hall crossed twice in the first-half to extend his record as England’s top try-scorer to 28. His double sandwiched tries by Daryl Clark and Tom Burgess to give England a 22-6 lead at the break.

The intensity dropped in the second-half, played out under constant drizzle. But England finished strongly with late tries by Kevin Brown, Jermaine McGillvary and Gareth Widdop, who also kicked six goals from seven attempts to reach 100 points for his country.

“I wasn’t disappointed - I thought we handled it pretty good without blowing them away,” said Bennett.

“France played really hard and completed high. I was pretty pleased with them all - I thought they were all pretty good.

“I wish France would be where there were 20-odd years ago.

“But watching France today, you have to be optimistic what they can do moving forward, if they hold things together and build from here. They tried really hard, completed high and kept turning up in defence - we just had better players than them.”

Wigan players George Williams, John Bateman, Dan Sarginson and Liam Farrell will come back into the reckoning for the Four Nations opener against New Zealand next Saturday.

France, watched by more than 14,000 fans, had a dig and certainly played better than a year ago when they crumbled 84-4 at Leigh.

Coach Cologni said: “I’m frustrated. We can be proud of this game, because we put England in a bad situation.

“Some decisions could have made a difference.

“When you lead by six points and there is two penalties you can be tired and it’s difficult to build pressure.

“The referee knows that and I’m really frustrated. But it was a good game for them and us and was very tough. It was very good for the French team.

“With the World Cup coming up it was a good test that will give us a lot of confidence to prepare for the World Cup.

“Last year it was very difficult for us, to get beaten by 80. This year it was 40, and the real score was 28, for me. We’re in a good position to improve the French level.”