England coach Wayne Bennett has welcomed the return of the Great Britain team and is open to selecting non English-born players for it.
Bennett, who will lead the Lions on the end-of-season tour to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, spoke of his enthusiasm at a press conference in St Helens.
“The England part was a bit foreign to me to be honest, I’m very happy to see Great Britain back,” Bennett said.
“In Australia it’s a household name, it’s such a great brand. International football is in the best place it’s been for a long time.”
Bennett met the England players included in the elite performance squad on Monday night and says players from Wales, Ireland and Scotland will also be considered for the tour.
“I’m going to pick the best team I possibly can,” he said. “If they are eligible they will tell me. I just want the best players on the tour.
“Some names have been thrown at me and there’s a few we need to find eligibility for.”
The national coach says he will also consider Warrington’s Australia-born stand-off Blake Austin, the front-runner for the Man of Steel award who has a British grandmother.
“Blake seems to be enjoying his footy here,” Bennett said. “He hasn’t always lived up to his talent. Anyone who is eligible and wants to come, they will be part of the mix.”
Bennett, who met up with his NRL-based England players recently, will hold interviews for the vacant Great Britain assistant role during his whistle-stop trip to the UK.
It was confirmed that St Helens assistant coach Paul Wellens will not be part of the national backroom staff this year.
Bennett, 69, is out of contract at the end of the tour but dropped a strong hint that he will extend his stay.
“In my own mind, I’d like to be here for the World Cup in 2021,” he said.
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