New coach Wayne Bennett wants his England players to have a break from Super League to take part in an international weekend in Australia in 2017.
Bennett, currently preparing for his first match in charge of the English national side against France on Saturday week, is already looking ahead to the 2017 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
He wants his players to be made available for a pre-season training camp, followed by a one-off game in Australia in mid-season.
That will bring back haunting memories of Great Britain’s ill-fated trip to Sydney for a one-off match in 2002 which ended in a 64-10 humiliation, but the Rugby Football League has since met with limited success in their attempts to provide meaningful mid-season competition for the national team, dispensing with matches against France and the Exiles.
Now Bennett wants to use the window in the NRL in May to add an England game to the ANZAC Test and the clashes of the Pacific nations in Sydney.
“In Australia we have a bye week during the year when Australia and New Zealand play each other,” Bennett said.
“Teams like Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are all coming to be part of that week and playing each other too in that weekend.
“There’s an opportunity for England to come and be a part of that.
“We’ve got a great opportunity where we can play more Test matches – it’s not going to be perfect but we can play more international games.”
Bennett points to the fact that when England run out at Avignon’s Parc des Sports on Saturday week, it will be almost 11 months since their last appearance.
His proposal, along with that of a pre-season camp, will put him on a potential collision course with the players’ Super League employers, re-opening the club-versus-country debate and adding to the workload of the elite players amid fears of burnout.
Bennett, who says he is happy to bring his Brisbane Broncos team over to England for the 2017 World Club Challenge in February, plays down those fears, insisting that the high workload is necessary to fund well-paid salaries.
“Players in the UK have played over 30 games yes, but over here you’ve got guys with at least 30,” he said.
“There’s Origin, three play-off games and then pre-season and the Auckland Nines and things like that – plus a Test match in the middle of the year.
“Some will have over 30 too, but everyone gets well paid today, don’t forget.
“For that to happen you’ve got to have a product and it’s got to be competitive. You can’t get paid that level of money and have a 16-round season, it just wouldn’t happen.”