England Wayne Bennett wants his squad to have a break from Super League to take part in an international weekend in the southern hemisphere in 2017.
Bennett would not be drawn directly on his plans for the 2017 World Cup, but hinted that he wants England to play mid-season by taking part in the growing international weekend which takes place Down Under.
That will bring back haunting memories of Great Britain’s ill-fated trip to Sydney for a one-off match in 2002 which ended in a 64-10 humiliation, but the Rugby Football League has since met with limited success in their attempts to provide meaningful mid-season competition for the national team, dispensing with matches against France and the Exiles.
Now Bennett wants to use the window in the NRL in May to add an England game to the ANZAC Test and the clashes of the Pacific nations in Sydney.
“In Australia we have a bye week during the year when Australia and New Zealand play each other,” Bennett said. “Teams like Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are all coming to be part of that week and playing each other too in that weekend.
“There’s an opportunity for England to come and be a part of that. We’ve got a great opportunity where we can play more Test matches – it’s not going to be perfect but we can play more international games.”
Bennett also spoke openly about talk that players play too many games in this country – saying that to be well-paid, it is expected of players to play as often as they do.
“Players in the UK have played over 30 games yes, but over here you’ve got guys with at least 30,” he said. “There’s Origin, three play-off games and then pre-season and the Auckland Nines and things like that – plus a Test match in the middle of the year.
“Some will have over 30 too, but everyone gets well paid today, don’t forget. For that to happen you’ve got to have a product and it’s got to be competitive. You can’t get paid that level of money and have a 16-round season, it just wouldn’t happen.”