CASTLEFORD Tigers head coach Daryl Powell believes “questions need to be answered” about what has happened with the reformed Great Britain Lions.
The winless tourists – back in action for the first time since 2007 – play their final game of a dismal tour when they face Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby tomorrow.
Wayne Bennett’s squad have lost all three games so far, falling against a Tonga Invitational XIII in Hamilton before twice succumbing to New Zealand with distinctly average displays.
There had been so much anticipation built up around the return of the iconic Lions but disgruntled fans have been left disenchanted by bizarre selections, tepid performances and muddled thinking.
Bennett’s contract as Great Britain – and England – coach expires after this tour and he is under increasing pressure given the Lions’ failure to improve.
Powell, who earned 33 Great Britain caps during his playing career with Sheffield Eagles and Keighley Cougars and has long been tipped as a potential England chief, would not be drawn on the coach’s future.
It’d be disastrous if they lost but, whatever happens, there’s lots needs to be answered.Daryl Powell
However, he admitted: “Papua New Guinea will really be fancying their chances.
“You’d think this would be the game out of all of them with least interest. But having done what they’ve done it really does take on a bit of significance now for the Lions, for a number of reasons.
“Selection, the way the team’s playing, the need to actually get a win... It’s pretty crucial. It’d be disastrous if they lost but, whatever happens, there’s lots needs to be answered.”
Powell, who was England assistant coach under Steve McNamara in 2011 and also led Ireland, said: “I think clearly the (Lions) brand is an issue and that’s been damaged.
“The squad and team selection is another. It’s been an unbalanced squad.
“I’m not going to start having a pop at the coach – Wayne has done a pretty good job for England. But this is different and it is disappointing what’s happened with Great Britain.
“It needs reviewing – the whole process – to find out what could have been done better.”
Bennett – and a Lions selection panel – was criticised for taking six half-backs in the 24-man squad but only two wingers and one specialist centre.
Typically, the Lions’ main injuries problems then hit the three-quarters and Warrington Wolves stand-off Blake Austin ended up making his Test debut on the wing against the Kiwis last weekend, making costly errors.
Powell, 54, added: “Wayne doesn’t get to watch (many) games over here.
“You have to question who has selected the squad and the thought process behind it.
“It doesn’t take a genius to see it’s unbalanced when you have a half-back playing on the wing.
“It needs to be reviewed how that happened. He (Austin) put everything into it but he’s a half-back and there’s another couple of half-backs who look like they might not even get a game.
“We’ve been talking about bringing Great Britain back for a very, very long time. The games have been tight but it’s been disappointing overall.”
Bennett defended his selections yesterday and explained why he flew Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley over last weekend only to decide not to play him tomorrow.
“I wasn’t sure if he (Austin) could get the job done or not (but) we were pretty confident he could,” said the coach.
“We didn’t think we could bring someone out from England on a Monday or Tuesday and play him in a Test match on Saturday.
“Looking ahead to here and realising we could have more injuries, we brought him (Handley) out as a precaution.
“If we had more injuries to include him, and if we didn’t and we’re happy with what we’ve got, we will go with that.”
Lions preview: Page 20