Brian Carney: Is Wayne Bennett rugby league’s Gerald Ratner?

Sky Sports rugby league expert Brian Carney questions whether Great Britain head coach Wayne Bennett is the Gerald Ratner of the sport ahead of the Lions’ second Test against New Zealand on Saturday…

The Great Britain tour Down Under has descended into a farce.

I made the point previously how it was important to incorporate all of the Home Nations under the Great Britain brand – and let’s remember, it is a brand.

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But as far as branding exercises go, this has been a complete and utter shambles.

To have Wayne Bennett appearing to suggest Welsh star Regan Grace not being part of the England set-up has worked against him in terms of making this tour shows how far the head coach is from grasping what the Great Britain & Ireland Lions team should be about, and how rudderless the concept is.

We’ve had 12 years to prepare for the Lions returning to the international stage and we have a coach who is calling it a training exercise for England’s World Cup prospects in 2021.

We’ll wait to see if Blake Austin plays on the wing against New Zealand on Saturday, but the selections from the start have been perplexing. When we found out the reason was to prepare England’s halves for the next World Cup, they needed to turn the plane around and come home.

To have Wayne Bennett suggest Regan Grace being Welsh has worked against him in terms of making this tour shows how far the head coach is from grasping what the Great Britain & Ireland Lions team should be about

Brian Carney

Just exactly who is in charge? Ultimately, it must fall at the feet of RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer and he needs to take a long, hard look at what he is presiding over.

And that’s before we take into consideration it is 2019 and the Great Britain & Ireland side don’t even have their own social media accounts! How on earth can we get something so wrong?

I’m serious when I say this: The damage done to the Lions brand by the words and actions of Bennett and his selectors – and the lack of oversight from Rimmer – could prove fatal to a jersey I, for one, cherish pulling on as a career highlight.

Somebody from the RFL needs to explain what this “Lions tour” is all about, because I started thinking it was the selection of the best available players from four countries and it’s now been revealed as preparatory work for England’s crack at the 2021 World Cup.

If that is the case then scrap the Lions and call it England, Ralph.

The irony of all of this is that Ralph was team manager of the Ireland side at the 2000 World Cup and I know from being a member of the squad how seriously he took it – and how seriously he took the concept of Ireland having its own identity.

That identity is meant to carry through to the Lions, which makes what he is in charge of now all the more perplexing.

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