Australian Wayne Bennett has been appointed as England’s new head coach.
The most successful Australian rugby league coach in history has agreed a two-year deal with the Rugby Football League that will see him take charge of the England team through the 2016 Four Nations Series and the 2017 World Cup.
Bennett, who turned 66 on New Year’s Day, will succeed former Bradford head coach Steve McNamara, whose contract ran out at the end of November’s Test series against New Zealand and is not being renewed.
“Wayne is quite rightly regarded as the outstanding coach of his generation and I am delighted that we have been able to secure his services,” said RFL chief executive Nigel Wood. “This England team has made considerable progress over the last few years and we now possess truly world class players across all positions. These players deserve the very best support and coaching as we attempt to move from contenders into potential winners of international tournaments.
“I believe that Wayne Bennett is undoubtedly the right man to lead this group forward and enable them to do this”.
Bennett, who will be in England later this month with his club Brisbane for the World Club Series, said: “I am very excited by the challenge of taking England on to the next level. From what I have seen I have been impressed by the ambition and energy demonstrated by the team and I look forward to working with a group of players that I believe have what it takes to succeed on the international stage.”
Bennett, who has a record seven NRL Grand Final wins as a coach, will continue in his role at the Broncos. He has twice coached Australia and was right-hand man to Stephen Kearney, his current assistant at the Broncos, when New Zealand won the 2008 World Cup.
The Rugby Football League confirmed earlier on Tuesday that McNamara had left his role as England coach after his contract was not renewed by the RFL.
He had been in charge of the national side since 2010, guided England to a series victory against the world’s No1-ranked side, New Zealand, last year. However, following a lengthy review into the future of the national team, McNamara has been informed he will not be getting a new contract and will leave the post with immediate effect.
A statement from the RFL said: “The RFL have today announced that it will not be renewing Steve McNamara’s contract as England head coach. McNamara has been the England coach since 2010 and his most recent contract expired at the end of last year following the New Zealand Test Series.”
Wood added: “The RFL has concluded that with the 2016 Four Nations and 2017 World Cup on the horizon, now is the time to make any change to the England set-up.
“Steve McNamara has been the longest-serving national coach in our history and it is undoubtedly the case that the national team and set up have moved on considerably under Steve’s leadership.
“We would like to place on record our thanks to Steve McNamara for his considerable efforts over the years to both the England senior team and the underlying programme. He leaves with our very best wishes and on a high, after a series win over New Zealand.”
This article was written by Aaron Bower and agencies, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd February 2016 11.17 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010