Cunningham blasts Bennett’s England plans

This article originated in League Express. Get all the news first by purchasing League Express in stores every Monday, or if you can’t wait that long, get the online edition every Sunday evening at

St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham has lashed out at the “abysmal” system put in place by England coach Wayne Bennett’s for a pre-season training camp overseas.

Cunningham will lose a number of key players if, as expected, Bennett picks the likes of Jonny Lomax and Mark Percival to go on the tour to Dubai for almost two weeks next month.

And the St Helens coach is fuming that there is more pressure and more workload being placed onto the shoulders of elite players, and he believes that the RFL is as culpable as Bennett for agreeing to his demanding plans.

“I’ll get my (England) lads on the 16th January and our first trial game is on the 22nd,” Cunningham told League Express.

“The whole system is absolutely abysmal, both what has been put forward and what has been accepted by the powers-that-be.

“They’re talking about player welfare more and more in Australia, because they have some five-day turnarounds. Over here, you throw in another ten games, a shorter pre-season, two double-header weekends and a mid-season Test match and you’ve got a mess.

“It’s going to be really tough to contend with and I won’t see my England lads for a long time. I’m still looking for explanations from people, but I’m not getting them.”

Cunningham was particularly scathing of Bennett, who is expected to be at England’s 12-day camp for just a handful of days as he prepares his own Brisbane side for the start of the NRL season.

“There’s one thing alone that Wayne Bennett wants and that’s to win the World Cup. I’ll leave it to people’s own discretion to suggest why that’s the case. But it seems like he doesn’t care about our competition. That’s how it feels.”

Cunningham also said he believes Bennett would not sanction such a move if it impeached on his own club responsibilities.

“I’m absolutely sure this would not be allowed to happen in the NRL. They wouldn’t allow this and Wayne, as an NRL coach, certainly wouldn’t allow it to happen.

“Both Wayne and his backroom team should understand the backlog of games we’ve got, but all they’re doing is making it worse. We’re just accepting it.

“We all want a successful World Cup, but I can guarantee you that twelve days anywhere in the world in January isn’t going to make you win a World Cup in October or November. That’s not going to happen.”