Coach Wayne Bennett has admitted Great Britain have “gone backwards” and critics are turning against the Australian-born head coach and his team after a series defeat to the Kiwis.
It was Great Britain’s third consecutive tour defeat – kickstarted by a loss to Tonga – and Bennett could be under pressure to keep his job after three years in charge.
The South Sydney NRL coach said his future was “a decision they [the Rugby Football League] have got to make. My contract finishes next week [after a test against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby] so we’ll see what they want to do.”
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Bennett appeared keen to continue in the role, and was trying to put some context on the results at his post-match press conference in Christchurch.
He mentioned Great Britain were without key players such as the just-retired Sam Burgess, 2018 World Player of the Year Tommy Makinson and veteran Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin, and said: “Next year and the World Cup year are the prime years”.
“There are a lot players here who haven’t played before. There’s a number of players, we’ve tried a few new combinations so if we have to have a bit of a stumble, this is the year to do it in – not next year or the year after.”
However, Great Britain league fans may be running out of patience with Bennett, who took over as England coach in 2016 and steered them to a 2017 Rugby World Cup final defeat to Australia.
The Queenslander had just four per cent support from voters in an online poll on England’s Total Rugby League website on Sunday morning with 44 per cent wanting former Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane to take over as England and Great Britain coach, with 29 per cent backing Castleford Tigers coach and former Great Britain international Daryl Powell and 20 per cent favouring current Great Britain assistant and Salford Red Devils coach Ian Watson.
English news sites labelled the Christchurch defeat as Great Britain’s worst of the tour.
BBC Sport’s Matt Newsum said: “The Lions’ return after 12 years away has turned out to be something of a damp squib, with this loss as disappointing as any of the three games so far in terms of both performance and result” and “a tally of just three tries in the three tests has highlighted a lack of penetration…”
The BBC report noted that it was “just a year since an England side, containing many of the components parts of this [Great Britain] team blew the Kiwis away at Anfield.”
“Yet another insipid display saw Wayne Bennett’s side defeated, and put more pressure on the Australian coach, whose contract expires at the end of this tour”.
Shaw said the defeat, “a third in three outings” was “the most disappointing. “Again, [Great Britain] found some steam in the final quarter, but it would be wrong to call it a second wind, given they never found their first”.
The Guardian said Great Britain’s tour “reaches a new low with heavy loss to New Zealand”. Its correspondent Steve Mascord also noted Great Britain had “managed just three tries in as many matches on tour”. He said the Lions were “unfortunate to have a couple chalked off by the video referee on Saturday but that is not to say they deserved to win”.
Kiwi Ferns coach Justin Morgan, who was working for the BBC Sport commentary team as an expert analysis, said Great Britain “made a number of unforced errors”.
“A couple of times when they had some good field position in the fist half, Great Britain didn’t build any pressure through the kicking game.
Morgan said the ball needed to go to the British halves more in the second half but “there were too many sets where it went to the props”.