Great Britain Rugby League

By John Davidson,

Great Britain will be out to restore some pride and avoid a tour whitewash when they take on Papua New Guinea on Saturday.

The Lions, with three defeats in a row, head to Port Moresby to face the Kumuls in their final match in the southern hemisphere.

Great Britain’s first tour in 12 years has turned into a failure both on and off the field. The Lions have lost to Tonga and twice to New Zealand, and the brand has been damaged by coach Wayne Bennett’s strange selections and his odd media comments referring to England.

Great Britain badly need a victory over Papua New Guinea to ease the pressure. They have scored just 22 points in their past three games.

Stunningly, Bennett has decided not to use winger Ash Handley, who had been called into the squad after the injury to Ryan Hall. Instead, five-eighth Blake Austin has been kept on the wing.

Handley has not even made into the 21-man squad to meet the Kumuls. Gareth Widdop and Jackson Hastings remain in the halves, while Joe Philbin, George Williams, Jake Trueman and Zak Hardaker have been named as extended reserves.


Papua New Guinea lost to Fiji last weekend, in a curtain-raiser to the Kiwis’ win over the Lions, but impressed in Christchurch. This will be the first time the British have played on the island since 1996.

“They really play for the shirt so we need to be at our best this weekend, physically and mentally,” Great Britain assistant Ian Watson.

“The heat will test us because it’s not something we’re used to and they played really well against Fiji. They have got some really good players.

“It’s our last Test. We’re finished after this, and we don’t want any regrets. We just want to go out there and give our best.”

With Bennett’s contract as England coach up, many Lions fans are calling for his head.

England will face Australia in a three-Test Kangaroo tour on UK soil next year.

Papua New Guinea will be the underdogs but will rely on fanatical home support and the hot conditions to help them.

They will be boosted by the likes of NRL players Alex Johnston and Justin Olam, as well as Super League forward Rhyse Martin, who will lead from the front.

Great Britain team: Jonny Lomax; Jermaine McGillvary, Jack Hughes, Jake Connor, Blake Austin; Gareth Widdop, Jackson Hastings; Chris Hill, Josh Hodgson, Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Elliot Whitehead, James Graham (captain). Subs (from): Josh Jones, Luke Thompson, Daryl Clark, Alex Walmsley, Joe Philbin, George Williams, Jake Trueman, Zak Hardaker.