Bennett praises Johnstone following hat-trick display

Wayne Bennett has tipped Tom Johnstone for a bright future in an England shirt after his hat-trick on debut, but admitted he might not feature in the Test series against New Zealand. The speedster’s career hit new heights as he bagged a treble in England’s victory over France as Bennett’s side eased to a 44-6 victory.

His performance will inevitably have done his chances of featuring in the Test series opener no harm, but with Tommy Makinson and Jermaine McGillvary both in contention, Bennett admitted his place in the side against the Kiwis wasn’t a guarentee.

“Tom has played well tonight but Tommy Makinson is a pretty fair player and Jermaine has shown us all what he can do,” Bennett said. “However, if he doesn’t make it he won’t be far off.

“He really wasn’t in contention for the World Cup. Those positions were pretty well covered but he’s someone I’ve been noticing for the last 12 to 18 months and someone I’ve been waiting to give an opportunity to. That has come along this year, and he has certainly got a future on the wing for England, but maybe not this year, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Bennett also saved praise for some of the other debutants who featured.

“Oliver Holmes, I thought he was really good, and Richie Myler,” he said. “I liked his organisation, he’s a good talker.

“Jake Connor, I think he’s quite a player. I’m not sure about `star of the show’ but he is a player, I know that much. He’s got a good skill level, he’s a good decision maker and he does a lot of good things. He was good in America and good again tonight.

“Robbie (Mulhern) looks like quite an accomplished player. I liked some of the things he did and the way he went about it. There are always lots of things you see, but you are looking for the things that you know are effective and will add quality to the team, and I thought Robbie brought that.

“The fullback (Jamie Shaul) was really good, I’ve seen him play before and liked him every time I’ve seen him; he’s calm, competes pretty good and is pretty brave.

“Reece (Lyne) is a project. Part of what we’re trying to do now is getting ready for 2021 and his performance tonight certainly showed that Reece has some ability. They won’t all be able to  play straight up; the point is we’re trying to get to a place in 2021 where we have a very strong squad of players, all capable of playing a high level of Test football.”