Wayne Bennett fears centre Oliver Gildart and prop Luke Thompson suffered tour-ending injuries in Great Britain’s 14-6 defeat to Tonga Invitational XIII in Hamilton but insists there is no panic.
Thompson, who was man of the match in St Helens’ Grand Final triumph, went off against the Tongans after only 12 minutes with a rib injury, while Gildart dislocated a shoulder on 59 minutes.
The absence of Thompson for next Saturday’s first Test against New Zealand could open the door to Ireland prop Joe Philbin or his Warrington team-mate Jack Hughes, while the loss of Gildart, the squad’s only specialist centre, will provide an opening for utility back Jake Connor.
“I don’t think they’ll play again in this series,” Bennett said of Thompson and Gildart. “One’s got a rib issue and the other a dislocated shoulder.
“I’m happy with the squad right now. We can cover, it’s not panic time for us.”
Great Britain, making their first appearance since 2007, never got a foothold in the game against a fired-up Tongan team determined to build on their remarkable 2017 World Cup exploits.
They trailed 12-0 at half-time and were 14-0 down when John Bateman scored their only try.