Lions' whitewash on tour highlights stronger international game, says Wayne Bennett

Josh Hodgson scored one of the tries which helped put GB 10-0 upJosh Hodgson scored one of the tries which helped put GB 10-0 up
Josh Hodgson scored one of the tries which helped put GB 10-0 up
Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett says the Lions' whitewash on their tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea demonstrates the rising standards of the international game as a whole.

The eagerly-awaited return of the Lions after a 12-year absence has turned into a huge anti-climax with defeat in all four matches on the first tour for 23 years.

Beaten in their opening game by a Tongan Invitational XIII, Britain suffered a two-Test series defeat by the Kiwis and on Saturday were humiliated 28-10 by the Kumuls in Papua New Guinea.

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Bennett, whose contract with the Rugby Football League is now up, was able to take positives from the tour despite having a bitter pill to swallow.

"You all need to have a good look at what's happened with the international game over the last five or six years," he said.

"They're playing more Test matches and more competitions and you're starting to see the benefits of it.

"You've seen the emergence of Tonga, you've seen how much your team (PNG) has improved and Samoa are much improved. The boys all want to play for their country now.

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"So, while we've got to swallow a bitter pill as Great Britain, on the other side of the ledger I see the game getting stronger.

"It was a wonderful game of football here tonight. Everybody was entertained throughout.

"If I look at that side of it, I'm pleased with it. If I look at our performance, I'm disappointed we under-achieved. We didn't have a great tour. We had some great moments but not a great tour."

The RFL will conduct a wide-ranging review before deciding whether to renew Bennett's contract for England's 2020 Ashes Series and the 2021 World Cup but the man himself insists he still has the appetite to continue the job he began in 2016.

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"I don't think anyone can say I haven't got that," said the South Sydney boss, who turns 70 on New Year's Day.

"I don't think I show any of that anyway, that I don't have the appetite for it.

"But it's not my decision now. I'll talk to some people and see what's going on and take it from there.

"My contract is up now so I'll just wait and see and have some discussions.

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"But tonight is not a good night to make decisions - you're emotional and not in a good place, coaching has taught me that much.

"You don't make decisions within 24 hours and after Grand Finals after about six weeks."

Britain suffered a body blow in the first tackle of the game, losing captain James Graham with concussion, but they opened up a 10-0 lead courtesy of tries from Blake Austin and Josh Hodgson.

"It didn't stop us getting to 10-0 and completely dominating the game up until we threw a bad pass at the back of the scrum," he said.

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"The game is at a place now where if you're not completing around 85 per cent plus in both halves, you're in a fair bit of trouble.

"In the first half we completed at 90 per cent, we were up 10 and should have been up 16 but we weren't.

"That's what we've got to get better at, just completing our sets properly."

Bennett also wants England to play more matches after claiming the lack of a mid-season Test and limited preparation for the Lions tour were partly to blame for the disappointing outcome.

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"We missed the mid-year Test this year," he said. "We need to play in that, that's where these guys are getting all their improvements from.

"Australia come in with an Origin Series behind them, New Zealand come in to play us after they've played Australia at the end of the season. Everyone is doing more preparation than we are.

"If we want to compete with them, we've got to get ourselves back to that level."