WAYNE Bennett has revealed why he thinks the Great Britain team has gone backwards – from the England team he took over in 2016!

Discussing the third straight defeat of the resurrected Great Britain team’s tour – a 23-8 loss to New Zealand in Christchurch – the head coach talked of the Lions making the same mistakes as the England side he took over three years ago.

“They (the Kiwis) played much better than we did. I can look for a thousand excuses, but that’s the reality,” said Australian Bennett of a loss that included Warrington Wolves stand-off Blake Austin making his GB debut on the wing and back-rower Jack Hughes in the centres, with clubmates Chris Hill starting at prop and Daryl Clark featuring in the final 20 minutes off the bench.

Asked if there was underlying reasons to the performance by a GB side put together for this tour for the first time since 2007, he said: “We (Great Britain) didn’t get off to the right foot against Tonga two weeks ago and we haven’t picked it up where we (England) were the last time we played them in a series (2018).

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“We’re back to the way we were in 2016, I feel, when I first came in as coach (of England).

“We’re just not respecting the opposition enough to realise how much discipline we’ve got to play with.

“I’m not happy with going backwards from last year and the World Cup year, from what we’ve played this series.

“The opposition’s been good, I’ve got to say that. The quality of the New Zealand team’s been really good.”

Pushed further on the levels of performance, he said: “It’s probably a whole lot of things but the bottom line is New Zealand have played really well in the last two games and we’re just a bit off the pace.”

Asked if the Great Britain tour has been a distraction to England’s preparations for the home World Cup in 2021, he said: “We can take a lot out of it, and the next year and World Cup year are the prime years.

“We’ve brought a lot of players here who haven’t played at this level before.

“A lot of players have tried new combinations, so if we have to have a bit of a stumble this is the year to do it in.

“I believe that all fit and everybody available – we’ve lost Sam (Burgess) and Sean O’Loughlin who are losses for us – I believe the squad’s stronger and there’s a strong group of players that will get us through the next two years.

“I just want to try to get them all together at one time and go from there.”

He highlighted how preparations for the tour had not been ideal.

“We were a bit disrupted when we (England) came out for the 9s (World Cup 9s in Australia),” he said.

“Some players we sent home, because the English rugby league season hadn’t finished, the Grand Final was on that weekend – or the weekend before, and we didn’t want to field those players.

“I think it’s affected us a little bit this year that we didn’t have a mid-season Test and also I don’t think our preparation time was long enough to go into the Tonga game.

“But the players’ attitude to training and all the other stuff is outstanding.

“Their behaviour, and all things they do as a footy team, they match up on.

“Every player in the New Zealand team, the Australian team and the Tongan team virtually, all play in the NRL.

“So there’s a standard in the NRL and we’ve got to come up to that standard.

“And that’s what we saw (against New Zealand).

“At half time they had one handling error, the same the previous week.

“I think they had 18 out of 19 sets, and we were at nine out of 14.

“You just make it too hard for yourself and you spend most of the time tackling.

“They came in at half time exhausted because they’ve been spending too much time at their won end of the field tackling and trying to hang on.

“They’ve learned those lessons. They know it doesn’t work for us.”

Great Britain have finished games strongly though, enjoying their best form in the last 20 minutes of matches.

“They don’t give up, that’s why I admire them and it makes it easy to coach them,” he said.

“They were down 16-2 at half time, conceded straight after half time for 20-2, but kept fighting back.”

Regarding the performance of Wire half-back Austin playing his first professional game on the wing, Bennett said: “I thought Blake was really good for someone that’s not played much wing.

“The way he carried the football was quite outstanding. I thought he was one of our best ball carriers, he made a real contribution.”

Great Britain will finish their tour against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby next Saturday.