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Wayne Bennett and John Bateman.

Great Britain expect to hit the ground running against Tonga Invitational on Saturday night, with the majority of their squad fresh off grand final appearances.

Nine of the Lions' players named to face Tonga at Waikato Stadium made the decider in either the NRL or Super League this year, compared to Tonga who have only three players in the same boat.  

Speaking to, Great Britain forward John Bateman said that scenario had left the Wayne Bennett-coached side in ideal shape.   

"I'd probably say we are a step ahead in fitness on previous years because we haven't had much time off," Bateman told

"The only thing for us this week is getting the combinations working. Everyone is already fit and healthy so that's what it's all about.

Great Britain fullback Lachlan Coote.
Great Britain fullback Lachlan Coote. ©

"Some of the lads also played in the Nines [World Cup] which was good fitness-wise.

"Personally the body feels good, I spoke to Wayne and had a bit of time off to rest, but to be fair even if I had a couple of knocks I'd still want to represent Great Britain."

With the Super League decider being played a week after the NRL grand final, Lions fullback Lachlan Coote said there was hardly any time to celebrate the title with his St Helens teammates before joining Great Britain.

I'd probably say we are a step ahead in fitness ... we haven't had much time off

Great Britain forward John Bateman

"I came off the grand final win and there was only three days and then I was back in camp," Coote told

"I only finished up a few weeks ago so that's obviously going to help ... it definitely suits me better to get straight back in.

"It would have been hard to have a few weeks off and then get back into training."

Thirteen members of the Tongan squad remain from the team that took the field in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup semi-final loss to England, while 10 members of the Great Britain squad also played in that match.

Bateman, who played in the centres that day, said he was expecting a similarly raucous reception from the passionate Tongan fans.

"It's probably the best atmosphere I have ever played in that semi-final. It was pretty mad coming into the stadium ... the Tongans got well behind them," Bateman said.

"You look at their squad, it's a fantastic squad and you can't take anything away from them, so on the field I can expect it to be a really tough game."

Blake Austin training with the Great Britain side.
Blake Austin training with the Great Britain side. ©

Bateman said the addition of Australia-born players Lachlan Coote and Jackson Hastings has added another dimension to the Great Britain spine.

Between them, Coote and Hastings had 58 try assists in the 2019 Super League season, with Hastings' 36 topping the competition and Coote finishing second in the category with 22.

"It's fantastic to have such great players involved in our squad and I am all for it," Bateman said.

"It's looking pretty good to be fair, it's a proper team.

"Seeing how we trained [Wednesday] it's looking good and I am really looking forward to the weekend."

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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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