Bennett backs New Zealand to recover from World Cup exit
England coach Wayne Bennett has backed New Zealand to bounce back from their shock exit at the Rugby League World Cup.
The Kiwis were dumped out of the competition last weekend after a close-fought quarter-final with Fiji, the Pacific Islanders winning 4-2 in Wellington.
It meant back-to-back defeats for the 2008 world champions after they finished the group stage with a 28-22 loss against surprise package Tonga.
New Zealand's exit has led to plenty of criticism for David Kidwell and his squad, but Bennett thinks a lot of the condemnation has been harsh.
"I think it's terribly unfair, the amount of pressure they have to come under so quickly," Bennett told a media conference.
"I think we all expected they would be in the semi-final phase... but Fiji to their credit, Tonga, they have played well and got the rewards.
"It's at the demise of New Zealand, but we can handle that, New Zealand will come back from that.
"They will recover from this."
While New Zealand lick their wounds, Bennett's England will meet Tonga in the semi-finals on Saturday, while defending champions Australia face Fiji 24 hours earlier.