Wayne Bennett on why Leeds Rhinos’ Ash Handley had a wasted trip to Papua New Guinea
GREAT BRITAIN boss Wayne Bennett has outlined his thinking behind Ash Handley’s wasted journey to Papua New Guinea.
The Leeds Rhinos winger linked up with the Lions this week, after answering an emergency call to fly out from England, but has not been selected in Bennett’s squad to play the Kumuls tomorrow (7.30am UK time).
Handley had been due to begin pre-season training with Leeds four days ago and will now miss at least two weeks of preparations for 2020, but Bennett insisted Handley was only called into the squad as a “precaution”.
He said: “The reality of that was we lost a number of players with injuries and they are all outside-backs.
“Last week in New Zealand we had to put Blake Austin there [on the left-wing].
“I wasn’t sure if he could get the job done or not, [but] we were pretty confident he could.
“We didn’t think we could bring someone out from England on a Monday or Tuesday and play him in a Test match on Saturday.
“Looking ahead to here and realising we could have more injuries, we brought him out as a precaution – if we had more injuries to include him and if we didn’t and we’re happy with what we’ve got we will go with that.”
Speaking at a press conference in Port Moresby, Bennett also denied favouring England players ahead of those from other home nations.
Pointing out that Lachlan Coote has played for Scotland and Joe Philbin is an Ireland international, he said: “The best players are here.
“We picked what we thought was the best team, nobody looked at their nationalities.”
Great Britain have lost all three of their tour games so far and tomorrow’s game is their last chance to avoid a whitewash.
But Bennett insisted: “We’ve played some pretty good football in the three of them, we haven’t always been at our best, but we’ve been good and more than competitive. [We have] to make sure we go out there and try and play to our standards.”
Of the Kumuls, Bennett said: “You’ve got to realise how good they are and how much ability they’ve got in the team. Our first and foremost thing is to realise we are playing a quality football team this week. We need to be on our best.”