Sport Prickly Bennett defends bizarre Lions selection move

03:25  15 november  2019
03:25  15 november  2019 Source:   wwos.nine.com.au

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Prickly Bennett defends bizarre Lions selection move . Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett says he has picked what he thinks has been the best team during the Lions ' tour

British and Irish Lions fullback, Jared Payne, has defended his selection to face the All Blacks next month. New Zealand-born Payne has come under fire from former Irish lock, Neil Francis, who says the 31-year-old shouldn't be playing for Ireland, let alone the Lions , because he wasn't born there.

Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett has defended his selection policy on the Lions tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Speaking at a press conference in Port Moresby, the veteran Australian was also forced to explain his decision to fly Ash Handley 10,000 miles to join up with the Lions squad and not play him in the last match of the tour.

Although the Great Britain brand has been revived after an absence of 12 years, Bennett's 24-man squad is essentially English but he denied any bias against the other nations.

"That's not true," Bennett told the press conference. "The best players are here in the English competition.

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a man wearing sunglasses and a hat: Wayne Bennett© Getty Wayne Bennett

"Lachlan Coote is Scottish and another of the boys Joe (Philbin) has played for Ireland and there's a couple of others (who were) due to come but got injured and couldn't come.

"We picked what we thought what the best team. No one looked at their nationalities. That's how it was picked. Obviously it's predominantly English but that's the way it's been for a long time."

Bennett has fallen out of favour with British rugby league fans after recent results. One Guardian article in the UK claimed that he had "failed" as Lions coach, and several outlets have pushed for a coaching change.


Leeds winger Handley was called up late after Britain lost Ryan Hall and Oliver Gildart to injury inside the first two matches but has not been included in the squad for Saturday's match against the Kumuls.

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"I wanted to bring him to Papua New Guinea, for some culture and experience," Bennett said.

"The reality is that we lost a number of players with injuries, a couple have gone home and they're all outside backs.

"We've lost three actually, last week against New Zealand we had to put Blake Austin there. I wasn't sure he could get the job done or not but I was pretty confident he could.

"We didn't think we could bring someone out from England on Monday or Tuesday and play them in a Test match on the Saturday so, looking ahead to here and realising we could have more injuries, we brought him out as a precaution.

"If we had more injuries, we could include him, if we didn't, we're happy with what we've got and we'll go with that."

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