Great Britain Lions: Coach Wayne Bennett gives heritage player warning

Great Britain Lions head coach Wayne Bennett
Experienced Australian Wayne Bennett will lead Great Britain Lions on their first tour since 2006

Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett says he will only consider picking a heritage player for this year's Lions tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea if they approach him and declare their commitment.

And he revealed one player has put their hand up and asked to be considered. But he won't reveal his identity at this stage.

St Helens full-back Lachlan Coote, Warrington stand-off Blake Austin and Salford half-back Jackson Hastings have all impressed in this year's Super League campaign. All qualify, despite being Australian born.

And at South Sydney - the club coached by Bennett in the National Rugby League - winger Campbell Graham also qualifies through his Scottish father and English mum.

"I've got a bit of feedback on one," said Bennett. "But the others I haven't. That's not to say they're not interested.

"But I'm not asking anymore, because I know what we've got.

"[In the current squad] there's not one of them that wouldn't play regularly in the NRL. They don't get the wraps they deserve."

Playing for Great Britain would not rule out any Aussie-born player from going on to play in State of Origin or for the Kangaroos, as the Lions do not have an official classification as a tier-one nation.

But Bennett doesn't believe that will play a part in any decision taken by any player.

"I don't think so," the 69-year-old added. "Two of those three players are older players, so to go back to Australia and play for Australia, I think they realise that's probably to going to happen.

"Hastings is a bit younger, but I don't believe that will be part of the decision-making. I think it's whether they want to play and whether we think they are good enough to play."

Watkins backed to handle NRL challenge

Meanwhile, Bennett also believes that Kallum Watkins' switch to the NRL will give the player's career a boost.

The Leeds centre revealed last week that he will join Gold Coast Titans on 1 July, midway through a troubled season for him as he returns from a long lay-off from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in a struggling Rhinos side.

"I think it will challenge him enormously and I think he needs the challenge," Bennett said.

"I see a great load of ability in Kallum and I don't think it's always been fulfilled. He's been in a system for a long time and that just happens sometimes.

"When he came into the English team I saw the better the competition, the better he played. Going to Gold Coast is going to challenge him and that will help England and Great Britain."

Kallum Watkins in action for Leeds Rhinos
Kallum Watkins won the last of his 25 England caps at the World Cup in 2017

He's also been impressed with former Wigan prop Ryan Sutton since his switch to Canberra Raiders this year. And he thinks the move has increased his chances of international honours.

"We've played against them a couple of times this year and he's been getting a lot of good reviews," Bennett said.

"If he was still here [in England] we wouldn't have seen the potential he has got. It just challenges them over there because the competition is so hard.

"He's risen to the occasion."

The Lions face Tonga (26 October), New Zealand (2 and 9 November) and Papua New Guinea (16 November) on their end-of-season tour.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Seven great GB tries against Australia & New Zealand