England rugby league coach Wayne Bennett, from Australia.
England rugby league coach Wayne Bennett, from Australia. DEAN LEWINS

England off to winning start under Bennett

WAYNE Bennett has made a winning start as England coach, his new-look side claiming a 40-6 victory over a dogged France.

Bennett denied accusations from new French coach Aurelien Cologni that England had disrespected the host nation by flying in and out of Avignon on the day of the game.

"There was no suggestion that we were trying to be smart,” Bennett said. "It was never mentioned to me or anybody else on the staff about being here early to promote the game.

"I thought it was great to be here. Watching France today, you've got to be optimistic about what they can do going forward if they can just hold it together and try to build from here.

"They kept turning up, we just had better players, that's a fact of life.”

Bennett gave out five new international caps in the absence of his skipper and South Sydney star Sam Burgess.

It was the perfect workout for England ahead of the Four Nations series, starting with New Zealand at Huddersfield on Saturday.

"I thought we handled it pretty well without blowing them away,” Bennett said. "I thought France tried really hard, they were really competitive and had good ball control.

"I was pretty pleased with all the new caps, I wasn't disappointed with anybody tonight. But it hasn't made my job of picking a side for next week tougher - I already had an idea of my team to face New Zealand anyway.”

Leeds winger Ryan Hall extended his record try haul to 28 in as many games with two in the first half to put England on its way to a commanding 22-6 half-time lead.

Five-eighth Gareth Widdop registered his side's seventh and final try and kicked a sixth goal to notch a century of points for his country.

The only disappointment for the victors was the loss of acting captain James Graham, the victim of a late and dangerous tackle with just five minutes to go in the match. He will now have to face a concussion test ahead of the clash with the Kiwis.

"He's a bit sick in there but the doctor says he should be okay,” Bennett said.

Cologni, who has replaced Englishman Richard Agar, was encouraged by his team's efforts, which was in sharp contrast to its 84-4 rout in Leigh 12 months earlier, and believes the final score flattered England.

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