England have made extraordinary progress this year as they strive to be the best team in the world. They faced New Zealand with 10 players missing from their World Cup Finals squad last year and still managed to secure the series despite a sobering final game.
Winning their first two games while missing star players such as Sam Burgess, Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall, England’s depth of talent is helping them to become a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
Wayne Bennett can take comfort with how far his team has come in such a short period of time, but ever the perfectionist, he will take the loss of the final game, a bruising 34-0 defeat, as a warning that this young team isn’t quite the finished product yet.
Still, there is a lot of promising talent emerging in the England team, in particular hat-trick scoring winger Tommy Makinson, Luke Thompson and centre Jake Connor, who are in all in their first season of international rugby and look set to be the stars of the future.
Many of Bennett’s men will be tested again next year, as the British and Irish Lions are reformed for a Southern Hemisphere tour after a 12-year absence. The last Lions tour was a 3-0 series win over New Zealand in 2007, preceding the World Cup the following year. Next year’s tour will likely include games against Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and possibly another Pacific nation.
Next up will be Australia’s tour of the UK, in 2020, which organisers hope will help build momentum towards the World Cup the following year, and will serve as a test for England’s tournament ambitions.
This all follows a meeting of the RLIF to map out international rugby league’s long-term future, setting out a structure of international games for the next eight years.
Bennett is keen to see more international rugby fixtures in the calendar in order to help the sport to continue to grow, and he is keen to ensure that England are in action more in 2019.
The more experience the better for this young England team, but right now their future looks bright and a series victory over New Zealand stands them in good stead for the next couple of years.
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