Wayne Bennett impressed with new faces in England squad

Wayne Bennett said a couple of players have caught his eye in his new-look England side.

There will be eight debutants for England when they play France in a warm-up Test at Leigh Sports Village on Wednesday ahead of their three-match series against New Zealand.

And even though England will be without 10 players who played in the Grand Final between Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves on Saturday, Bennett has been impressed with some of the younger players who have stepped up to the plate.

The Lions coach said: “It’s the start of a new stage for us because we’re at a phase where 12 players are missing from the World Cup for one reason or another.

“We’re starting a bit behind the eightball not being able to continue the momentum we probably had. Because of the injured players who are unavailable, we just need to take a little step back at the moment and focus on playing well in this series.

“I think there are 10 missing from the World Cup and a couple out of form, so that’s a dozen which is 50%. There are opportunities there for players playing on Wednesday. I like working with new faces but I like the older ones too because I know they will get the job done.

“There is plenty of quality in the squad. There are some quality players missing but the more players we can develop in a big squad, to get the job done, will stand England in good stead.”

England’s mid-season Test against the Kiwis will not go ahead next year after the RFL and NZRL failed to receive their full amount of money that was agreed with event promoter Moore Sports International.

And while Bennett is disappointed to see the Test not go back there – he still wants England to have a mid-season Test – wherever that may be.

He added: “I’m disappointed with that because the mid-season Test is really important to us, so I’m just not sure where it’s going.

“I see Tonga and New Zealand have positioned themselves to play each other and I just need to talk to Kevin (Sinfield) and a few of the staff to find out what is really going on. We need that mid-year Test because it has helped us enormously and I don’t want to lose it.

“But I do know Great Britain are going to Australia and New Zealand – I’m not sure if it’s both or just one. I haven’t had a chance to see Kevin yet.

“I wouldn’t lose any sleep over not playing Australia. Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand are all quality football teams there, but if Australia isn’t part of the tour then it’s not part of the tour. I’m not privy to that, I’ll just do what I’m told in terms of who we are playing.”

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