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England head coach Wayne Bennett says that the mid-season Test against Samoa will be key to his side’s preparations for this autumn’s Rugby League World Cup.
Bennett’s squad will take on Samoa on Saturday, May 6 in Sydney, which will give the team the opportunity to test themselves five months before the start of the tournament.
Australia play New Zealand in the Anzac Test the evening before in Canberra, and the England coach believes that the mid-season meet-up and match will give his side a fighting chance when they reconvene back Down Under in October.
“The Samoa Test is important to us,” he said. “It is important that we start to play more Test matches together in mid-season.
“All the other countries are doing it and we need to be a part of it too.”
Bennett had his first opportunity to work with the England squad at last autumn’s Four Nations, a month he described as one of the most enjoyable he’s had in Rugby League.
Whilst there was no silverware to show, he was extremely encouraged by the attitude, togetherness and passion shown by his players and he thinks that spirit will be key at the 2017 World Cup.
The Wall of White will take on Australia, Lebanon and France in the Group Stage as they ultimately aim to make the final in Brisbane on December 2.
“I spent a month with them and it was the most enjoyable month I’ve had in football for a long time,” he said, reflecting on the Four Nations.
“They’re great guys to work with and I love what they brought to the team - I loved the passion they had for their country. We just need to fix a few things up to give us a chance of doing really well in this World Cup.
“They’re an absolute pleasure to be around and I thought when the Dubai trip didn’t work for us, the clubs probably didn’t realise how much their players give and they probably do need the support because the players are so committed and they do give a lot to their county.
“The care and co-operation they had for each other was outstanding and their discipline and skill level was great. We had a great month and it was really enjoyable.
“Your players are always an extension of you and they’re all local blokes here, even the Burgess brothers and James Graham, they all learned their football here.”