Wigan Warriors ace George Williams facing new competition for a Great Britain spot
George Williams looks set to face fresh competition for his place in the Great Britain side this autumn.
The revived Lions, who haven’t played a match since 2007, will play New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea later this year.
And England coach Wayne Bennett, who will lead the Lions, has thrown the door open to Australian-born Jackson Hastings and Blake Austin by saying he is open to selecting non English-born players for it.
The pair qualify through having a British grandparent each, and could press Canberra-bound Williams, who started for England in each of their three tests against New Zealand last season, for his place.
Bennett spoke of his enthusiasm for the GB set-upat a press conference in St Helens.
“The England part was a bit foreign to me to be honest, I’m very happy to see Great Britain back,” Bennett said.
“In Australia it’s a household name, it’s such a great brand.
“International football is in the best place it’s been for a long time.”
Bennett met the England players included in the elite performance squad on Monday night and says players from Wales, Ireland and Scotland will also be considered for the tour.
“I’m going to pick the best team I possibly can,” he said. “If they are eligible they will tell me. I just want the best players on the tour.
“Some names have been thrown at me and there’s a few we need to find eligibility for.”
The national coach says he will consider Warrington’s Australia-born stand-off Austin, the front-runner for the Man of Steel award who has a British grandmother.
“Blake seems to be enjoying his footy here,” Bennett said. “He hasn’t always lived up to his talent. Anyone who is eligible and wants to come, they will be part of the mix.”
Bennett, who met up with his NRL-based England players recently, will hold interviews for the vacant Great Britain assistant role during his whistle-stop trip to the UK.
It was confirmed that St Helens assistant coach Paul Wellens will not be part of the national backroom staff this year.
Bennett, 69, is out of contract at the end of the tour but dropped a strong hint that he will extend his stay.
“In my own mind, I’d like to be here for the World Cup in 2021,” he said.