England: Coach Wayne Bennett wants mid-season game

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
Wayne Bennett
Wayne Bennett will take charge of his first series as England coach after an iconic career in the game
Four Nations tournament
Venues: London, Liverpool, Coventry, Huddersfield, Hull, Workington Dates: 28 October-20 November
Coverage: All England matches live on BBC TV, plus highlights of all other matches, also on BBC Radio 5 live and online

New England coach Wayne Bennett wants a mid-season game in Australia to help his side's World Cup preparation.

England may not play between the end of the Four Nations tournamentexternal-link in November and the World Cupexternal-link in October 2017.

Australia's players have a three-game State of Origin series in addition to the annual Test against New Zealand.

Bennett said: "In the week when New Zealand play Australia, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are coming. There is a chance for England to be part of it."

He added: "It's not going to be perfect but we've got a great opportunity to play more Test matches."

England have not played a mid-season game in Australia before but when Great Britain - fielding essentially an England side - took on Australia in Sydney in July 2002 they suffered a record 64-10 defeat.

The 2017 World Cup will be staged from 27 October to 2 December in Australia and New Zealand - with three pool games in Papua New Guinea.

England are in a pool with Australia, France and Lebanon while Scotland are grouped with New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa.

Wales and Ireland are among the countries seeking to claim one of the last three pool places via this year's European Qualifying Tournament.

Bennett unfazed by Houghton omission

Bennett shrugged off his decision to omit Hull FC hooker Danny Houghton - who won 2016's prestigious 'Man of Steel' award as the player of the year - from his squad.

The Australian has opted for Canberra's Josh Hodgson and Daryl Clark of Warrington for the No.9 role.

Forward Scott Taylor was the only Hull player to be selected in the 24-man squad despite the East Yorkshire side finishing third in Super League and winning the Challenge Cup.

In contrast, Leeds Rhinos, who ended the regular season in ninth and needed to come through the Qualifiers to stay in Super League, had three players selected.

"My job is to pick what I think are the best players for what we need from them," said Bennett. "That is the reason Houghton has missed out.

"It doesn't take away from his wonderful achievement in winning Man of Steel - but I didn't know I was supposed to pick him because of that."

England beat New Zealand in a three-Test series in 2015 but have never won a World Cup - while Great Britain last did so in 1972

The speculation got out of control

Bennett refuted suggestions he was encouraged by the Rugby Football League to select English-born players competing in Super League rather than Australian-born players from the NRL.

It had been suggested Bennett was willing to exploit eligibility rules to call up several star names from Australia.

Newcastle half-back Trent Hodkinson, who has played for New South Wales' State of Origin team, said in June he had spoken to Bennettexternal-link about the possibility of an England call.

Brett and Josh Morris - who have both played for Australia but are eligible for England through their grandfather and mother - were also mentioned as potential candidates.

Bennett said: "I was considering any player that was eligible for England, whether they were Australian-born, Australian-based or simply English.

"It didn't faze me in any way and I wasn't told who to pick, but the speculation got out of control."

Broncos make World Series offer

Bennett coaches Brisbane as well as England and says the Broncos, who finished fourth in this season's NRL, would be willing to participate in next year's World Club series.

The three-game series appears to be in jeopardy after NRL Grand Final runners-up Melbourne Storm said they were not interested in taking part in 2017.

In 2015 and 2016, two Australian teams came to Britain to play matches in addition to the NRL winners, who play their Super League counterparts for the title of world club champions.

Reports suggest a number of other NRL clubsexternal-link are set to reject any invitation to take part in the competition because it interferes with their pre-season preparations.

"We would be keen to travel," said the coach of the Broncos, who beat Wigan in 2015 and 2016.

"The other clubs have all got their reasons but we don't find it interferes with our season.

"We've played in a Grand Final, gone for the World Club Series and started the following year well, so I can't find a fault with it."

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