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England coach Wayne Bennett will continue to hand in-form Super League players an international debut regardless of age as he keeps one eye locked towards setting the nation up for success in the future.

Bennett has drawn criticism from English media and fans around player selections since taking on the coaching role in 2016 but came up trumps with the selection of Wigan centre Oliver Gildart, who crossed for the match-winner with a long-range effort against New Zealand in Hull on Saturday.

Gildart missed selection in Bennett's extended squad earlier in the month but was a late call-up for the injured Sam Burgess.

"I've watched his last month for Wigan and liked what he brought. I thought he's 21 years of age, let's grab him now and get him in with a group of outstanding blokes to be a part of," Bennett said.

"It wasn't a risk, it was an observation and knowing what I'm about and trying to build.

England prop James Graham.
England prop James Graham. ©Bernard Platt/NRL Photos

"We're building some depth which is really important. We're building young men with desire to really rattle the cages of Australia and New Zealand."

England were without seven players who featured in the Denver Test including Burgess and Gareth Widdop.

With Bennett and Maguire's futures in the NRL dominating the headlines across Australia and New Zealand over the last week, the 68-year-old was pleased with the quality on display in the opening clash to set up the series.

"It was important for both teams to play like they did today to show everybody it's a full-on Test series and the best of three games," Bennett said.

"There wasn't a bad player out there. Next week I have no doubt will not be any easier than it was today. New Zealand will want to win next week and realise the importance of that."

England's players face up to the New Zealand haka.
England's players face up to the New Zealand haka. ©Bernard Platt/NRL Photos

Veteran lock and skipper Sean O'Loughlin is the only concern for next week's clash with a calf problem.

Meanwhile, Kiwis coach Michael Maguire called on his side to respond following the defeat. Maguire was left disappointed by a lacklustre team performance with the game on the line.

"I thought in the first half we ran it on the last a few times when we could've kicked it long," Maguire said.

"From a game point of view, we need to get better at that. It was there to take for both teams and they applied a but more pressure than what we did.

"To me it's about how we respond. Who walks out on that field with a New Zealand jersey on, there's an expectation and this group is building. It doesn't matter how old or young you are."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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