THERE were five Great Britain half-backs on the field when Jermaine McGillvary – the Lions’ only remaining specialist winger – found himself feeding a scrum towards the end of that embarrassing defeat against Papua New Guinea.
If anything was needed to sum up the utter befuddlement of this hugely underwhelming tour, surely it was that richly ironic image?
Having been lambasted for picking six half-backs in his 24 man-squad, yet picking the same pair for all four Tests, here was head coach Wayne Bennett witnessing his misfiring side look as ragged as they ever have.
That said, it could have all been part of an elaborate set move. If it was, it did not work, much like so much of their game.
The arguments will rage on about the damage that has been inflicted on the Lions brand and, clearly, there has.
Regardless of your position on ‘heritage’ players, the fact that Bennett admitted he was using this Great Britain tour to have – in theory, at least – a look at half-backs for future England teams was hugely disrespectful.
It has been a woeful tour, punctured with inept and lamentable displays which has prompted so much disillusion.Dave Craven
It is obvious now to see that the coach could not distinguish between his Lions duties and his England role, namely that they are two different entities completely.
That is where, then, the governing body initially slipped up; if not letting Bennett do both jobs, at least failing to remind him of his duties in protecting the Lions’ name.
Still, it is no reason to disband the Lions completely as some people feel must now be the case.
Granted, it has been a woeful tour, punctured with inept and lamentable displays which has prompted so much disillusion.
And, yes, it is always likely to be predominantly English players; there are not even any semi-professional side in Scotland and Ireland so what do people truly expect?
However, there is no reason the Lions cannot roar again given the right selections. And that is where much of this tour’s downfall stems from – selections, not only in the squad but in playing players out of position.
There is lots of talk about pride and passion and how a British coach would instil far more of that than the Australian currently in charge.
But really? If players need a coach to install pride and passion into them, there is no chance of the Lions ever winning an Ashes again or England lifting the World Cup.
Pride and passion is a given. Picking the right players and formulating – and implementing – a match-winning gameplan is surely the trickiest and most important aspect of the whole equation. With that in mind, after getting those aspects so badly wrong of late, it is obvious supporters have already long since lost faith in Bennett.
But surely the powers-that-be – notably rugby director Kevin Sinfield – must feel the same way?
Are they confident Bennett will get things right in 2020 when England – essentially the same team – take on Australia in a three Test home series?
The RFL says there will be an ‘objective review of all aspects’ of the tour will take place before any decision is made but it is hard to see how he can survive.
It needs a fresh look for the Ashes and 2021 World Cup.
Pick Jonny Lomax at stand-off, finally give Mark Percival a chance at centre, get Liam Watts in at prop. Gareth Widdop has had so many chances and never shone on the biggest stage. Chris Hill has been a great servant but the time is right to bring in new blood. If Luke Gale doesn’t return to his best, get Jake Trueman in there now. Let’s be bold. Please.