England coach Wayne Bennett has insisted he is not giving any thought to whether he will continue in the role following this year’s World Cup – and says the players have no excuses heading into the tournament amidst suggestions of potential player burnout.
Bennett was appointed on a deal initially running until the end of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand this autumn, but there have been suggestions he could yet be tempted to stay on a longer deal by the Rugby Football League.
However, the Brisbane coach says that he doesn’t want to “waste anyone’s time” if he feels things are not progressing how he would like to.
“I’d rather wait until after the World Cup,” he told reporters at a media briefing on Thursday.
“I want to feel like something is happening and if it’s not, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. You’re doing a lot of things right here – but you’ve got to stop looking at the glass like it’s half-empty.”
“I’m not thinking about beyond this year and the 2021 World Cup. I just want to get through this year and make sure we’re a well prepared as we can be – after that, we’ll worry about what the future may hold.”
Bennett described his time with the England squad last autumn during the Four Nations as one of the most enjoyable times of his career – and said that after working with the players for the first time, he has a clearer idea of what he has at his disposal.
He said: “I know what I’m working with now; before you take on the job you’ve got opinions and observations but you’re never quite sure – but it was the most enjoyable month I’ve had in football for quite a long time.
“I loved their passion for the country – they’ve just got to fix a few things up and it’ll give ourselves a good chance in the World Cup.
“I admire their camaraderie and what it meant to them to play for England. The care and cooperation they had for each other and the skill level are all important things we possess: we had a great month and it was really enjoyable.”
Leading Super League players could play well in excess of 35 games this season – including two double-header weekends in Super League. However, Bennett has laughed off notions that the issue could be an excuse for his players at the World Cup.
He said: “The players get treated better than ever before – and in Australia it’s the same.
“We’ve got more 300-game players than the game has ever seen. The way they recover and rehab is remarkable; we all want to play less but nobody wants to play for less money – if you’re getting the salary you’re getting right now you’ve got to work pretty bloody hard for it. It comes with the territory.”
Bennett also held off committing on who his captain will be for the World Cup. Sam Burgess took the armband for the Four Nations after Sean O’Loughlin was injured – but Bennett said he is unlikely to decide until later in the year.
He said: “Deciding on the captain will be a difficult decision. Having Sean and Sam both available won’t be a difficult decision. That’s a decision that’s not going to happen right now.”