England coach Wayne Bennett is preparing his side for a semifinal showdown with Tonga on Saturday night, but has given an indication he would consider a return to the Kiwis in the future.

Bennett famously helped steer New Zealand to World Cup glory in 2008 when he worked as an assistant to coach Stephen Kearney.

He looms as an obvious potential target should the New Zealand Rugby League look to go in a different direction to incumbent David Kidwell, who has been heavily criticised for their shock quarterfinal loss to Fiji last week.

Kidwell is off-contract and NZRL boss Alex Hayton suggested the residency rule (an unwritten rule requiring the Kiwis coach to reside in New Zealand) could be scrapped to open up the possibility of an overseas-based mentor.


When quizzed about being open to working with the Kiwis again Bennett seemed interested.

"Who knows? Right now I am working with England and happy to be there but I enjoyed my time with the Kiwis," the Broncos mentor said.

"I had a great time and a great tournament and that is what brought me back this time.

"They will recover from this but the last thing they need is a review," he joked.

Bennett defended under fire Kiwis skipper Adam Blair for his post-game interviews and rubbished suggestions Blair didn't care about the game.

"That is perception and that is people that don't know what they are talking about," Bennett said.

"[Straight after the game] is when we are at our most vulnerable. I saw the Australian rugby coach the other day at a very vulnerable moment.

"What we say at those times are maybe not what we really feel - you are just trying to get your emotions out.

"[Shaun] Johnson got a bit of criticism too - I think it is terribly unfair.

"They are young men and not experienced to that extent as well, your country has just been beaten - it is not easy."

Bennett is preparing for vocal Mt Smart Stadium crowd on Saturday night that will be supporting the Tongan side that has been so impressive this tournament.

"The atmosphere there will be parochial - that is fine. It is good. That is what it is about.
"They have been good and it will be a good game on Saturday night."

The seven-time premiership winner is pleased with how his side has developed during the tournament.

"There is always room for improvement. We just got to handle the ball better.
"We are much improved.

"Ball control is not exactly where I want it. There have been glimpse of it - we just need to do it for a full game."