Bennett warns England could go backwards without mid-season game

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Head coach Wayne Bennett has warned that England could be in danger of going backwards if he fails to get a mid-season international in 2019.

Bennett says the 2017 mid-year Test with Samoa in Sydney was crucial preparation for his side’s successful World Cup campaign and this year’s clash with New Zealand in Denver was also critical to his long-term planning.

Proposals for a second trip to Denver have been shelved and Bennett’s hopes of replacing it with a game against France next June appear to have fallen through after the 2019 Super League fixture list revealed on Tuesday made no provision for a mid-season international break.

England v France – International Match – Leigh Sports Village
England played France in October but hopes of a re-match in June look to be in doubt (Martin Rickett/PA)

“I want a game. It’s not by accident that we’re doing what we’re doing at the moment, we’re building something and we want to maintain doing those things, otherwise we’ll go backwards.”

Bennett is also unclear about the opposition he will face when he takes a re-formed Great Britain team on tour to the southern hemisphere next October, although details are expected to be thrashed out at a four-day Rugby League International Federation conference in York which began today.

England v France – International Match – Leigh Sports Village
Richie Myler will play in the third Test as a replacement for an injured Sam Tomkins (Martin Rickett/PA)

“I really don’t know what’s going on with Australia at that level and I don’t really care to be honest,” Bennett said.

“We need to be playing next year, there’s a proposal about what we’re doing and where we play and what we do.

England v France – International Match – Leigh Sports Village
England will not appeal the four-match ban handed to George Burgess (Martin Rickett/PA)

Meanwhile, Bennett is forced to make three changes for Sunday’s game at Elland Road, where England can complete a 3-0 series whitewash.

Scrum-half Richie Myler is handed a recall in place of Sam Tomkins, who Bennett revealed broke a hand five minutes into last Sunday’s game at Anfield, and Stefan Ratchford will take the place on the bench of hooker Daryl Clark, who picked up a rib injury in the 20-14 win.

Wigan Warriors v Catalan Dragons – Betfred Super League – DW Stadium
Wigan forward Joe Greenwood is set to make his England debut in the third Test (Dave Howarth/PA)

Bennett says England have decided not to appeal the four-match ban given to Burgess, although he insists he did not deliberately gouge the eye of New Zealand full-back Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

“I’m disappointed to lose him but I don’t believe it was a deliberate eye gouge,” he said.

Catalans Dragons v Warrington Wolves – Ladbrokes Challenge Cup – Final – Wembley Stadium
Stefan Ratchford is recalled to the bench for England’s third Test (Adam Davy/PA)

“We didn’t expect to lose two of them in a three-game series,” Bennett said. “We’ve lost O’Loughlin and now George but Joe Greenwood could play there.

“He’s a good athlete and he’s got an opportunity he probably wasn’t going to get, so he’s going to grab it.”

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