Rugby League: England coach satisfied with winning start

Ryan Hall
Ryan Hall
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Wayne Bennett expressed his satisfaction after making a winning start as England head coach.

The veteran Australian handed out five new caps in the absence of his new skipper Sam Burgess and five players from the Super League Grand Final and watched his new-look, somewhat experimental side gain a 40-6 victory over a spirited France in Avignon.

It was just the workout England needed ahead of the Four Nations Series, although Bennett already had an idea of his team to play New Zealand at Huddersfield next Saturday.

“I wasn’t disappointed,” Bennett said. “I thought we handled it pretty well without blowing them away. I thought France tried really hard, they were really competitive and had good ball control.

“I was pretty pleased with all the new caps, I wasn’t disappointed with anybody tonight. But it hasn’t made my job of picking a side for next week tougher – I already had an idea of my team to face New Zealand anyway.”

Leeds winger Ryan Hall extended his record try haul to 28 in as many appearances with two first-half touchdowns to put England on their way to a 22-6 half-time lead, while stand-off Gareth Widdop scored his side’s seventh and final try and kicked a sixth goal to bring up a century of points for his country.

The only disappointment for England was the loss of acting captain James Graham, who was the victim of a late and dangerous tackle five minutes from the end and will have to face a head test ahead of the Kiwis game.

“He’s a bit sick in there but the doctor say he should be okay,” Bennett said.

Bennett denied accusations from new France head coach Aurelien Cologni that England had disrespected their hosts by flying in and out of Avignon on the day of the game and believes their performance bodes well for the future.

“I was pretty much working under instructions,” Bennett said. “I haven’t coached England before and I asked them for a game here and I was pretty happy with what they came up with. We didn’t disrespect anybody. There was no suggestion that we were trying to be smart.”

Joel Moon.

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