Great Britain head coach Wayne Bennett has admitted he will consider selecting non-British players who qualify via heritage for this autumn’s Lions tour – before again reiterating he wants to coach England at the 2021 World Cup.
The likes of Lachlan Coote and Blake Austin – who have both excelled in Super League this season – are eligible to play for Great Britain at the end of this season. Coote, in particular, has admitted he would be open to playing for the Lions if selected.
And Bennett has insisted that he’s been given no instruction to select players from Scotland, Ireland or Wales to fulfil a quota – or to not consider Australian-born call-ups, too.
He said: “I’m going to pick the best team I possibly can from what I’m allowed to pick. If they’re eligible then I’ll pick the best players for the tour – the players want that and that’s what I want. We’re not at someone’s beck and call to pick players from a certain country, it will be the best side and nobody’s suggested otherwise to me, and I don’t think they would suggest otherwise.”
On Coote and Austin, Bennett added: “I’ve seen Lachlan play and he’s been outstanding and I’ve always rated what he brings to a team. Blake seems to really be enjoying his footy, and I see great talent in him that he hasn’t lived up to at times. But he seems to be settled now. If they’re eligible and want to come into the mix then that’s a decision we’ll have to make.”
Bennett also confirmed on Tuesday that he desires to continue in his role as England head coach until the next World Cup – saying that he believes he will have a squad capable of winning the tournament by 2021. Bennett’s current deal with the RFL expires after the Great Britain tour.
But he said: “I haven’t discussed that (his contract) with anybody, I’m not thinking about new deals, I just want to get the best players down to New Zealand and do the best we can. In my own mind, I’d like to be here for the World Cup in 2021 and the squad’s just about here for that. There won’t be a lot more players come into that squad the next two years, there might be a couple come in but a lot of those men their best years are not behind them yet.”