England coach Wayne Bennett described the cancellation of his planned training camp as a “minor setback” yesterday, and accepted blame for a breakdown in communication with the Super League clubs.
The Rugby Football League was forced into an embarrassing about-turn after a host of high-profile coaches, including former England boss Tony Smith, criticised Bennett’s plans to take 17 players to Dubai in the first week in January, claiming it would cause massive disruption to the start of the new season.
Bennett, who has brought Brisbane Broncos over to England for the World Club Series, spoke for the first time about the issue at a press conference in Manchester.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” he said.
“We didn’t want the clubs to compromise what we were trying to achieve but we’ve made a decision not to proceed with it.
“It’s my fault; I should have communicated better and I take responsibility for that. But the staff here are working extremely hard with the clubs and I had a meeting with the coaches last night so we’re doing everything we can to improve communication.
“We were keen on it of course, but it’s a minor setback; it would have been nice to do it, but we can’t, so we have to just move on.
“It’s always tough on clubs. I’m in a competition in Australia which has State of Origin in it which has a huge impact on all of us, particularly when multiple players can be selected from one club like at the Broncos.
“We will continue to proceed with the in-season stuff; we will do one day a week over a period of weeks throughout the course of the season. It won’t be every week, but it has the support of the clubs.”
The RFL pushed ahead with Bennett’s plans for a mid-season international against Samoa in Sydney in May and persuaded clubs to release their elite training squad members for a series of training sessions which will be held throughout the domestic season under the guidance of assistant England coaches Paul Anderson and Paul Sculthorpe in the build-up to the end-of-season World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
As part of the compromise agreement, Bennett says he has also agreed not to take more than three players from any one club for the 12,000-mile trip to Sydney, where they will link up with the seven or eight NRL-based England players.
“There’ll be about a dozen who miss the following week’s fixtures in England because they’re playing in Australia, but the Samoa game is an important one to play, because we want more games,” Bennett said.
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