Bennett admits places up for grabs for New Zealand series as internationals begin v France on Wednesday night

England’s autumn internationals begin on Wednesday with the Test against France in Leigh – and coach Wayne Bennett admits there are still spaces in his side for the first Test against New Zealand next Saturday in Hull.

“I’ve got a fair idea but I’m not totally sold on it yet,” he said when asked about his team for the Kiwis game.

“A couple of guys with good performances against France could squeeze themselves in. I just want to pick the best teams first. There are two things in life. You’re always thinking about the future but the present is important. If you take your eye off one of them, it will cost you dearly. The present is important to me over here playing well but the future is three years away and there might be someone who hasn’t hit his straps yet.

“It’s the start of a new stage for us. Every game is important and every game we want to do well in. We’re at a phase where 12 players are missing from the World Cup for one reason or another. We’re starting a bit behind the 8 ball not being able to continue the momentum we probably had. Because of the injured players who are unavailable, we just need to take a little step back at the moment and focus on playing well in this series.”

Bennett also admitted he has had ‘mixed messages’ on the itinerary of the revived Great Britain tour in 2019.

It was announced earlier this year that the Lions would be returning for a southern hemisphere tour next year – and that Bennett would be overseeing the tour alongside his England commitments.

“Again, I’ve had a couple of mixed messages on that so I’m not totally across it,” he said. “But I do know Great Britain are going to Australia and New Zealand – I’m not sure if it’s both or just one. I haven’t had a chance to see Kevin yet.”

Bennett also admitted he hopes to coach England beyond the end of his current deal, which expires at the end of next year.

“I hope so. I certainly will be (coaching England) next year,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how I’m going but if I’m not getting the job done or lost the players’ confidence, then I won’t stay longer than I should.”