The future of England and Great Britain head coach Wayne Bennett has come under intense scrutiny following the Lions’ dismal tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Four defeats from four – including a 28-10 defeat to a PNG side boasting a number of Championship and Intrust Super Cup regulars – has thrust the Australian’s position further into the spotlight.
Here are six coaches who could succeed the 69-year-old as England and potentially Great Britain boss.
The name on the lips of most rugby league supporters, Wane has been widely tipped to take over as national team boss, whether that be now or in the future. He is currently a High Performance Coach in the Scotland Rugby Union setup, but is most known for winning three Super League titles and one Challenge Cup trophy during his time at Wigan. The 55-year-old worked as Academy Coach at the Warriors before becoming Michael Maguire’s assistant in 2009, and wouldn’t think twice about putting his faith in youth. With a number of talented youngsters waiting for their chance to don the England jersey, Wane’s appointment may be just what the doctor ordered.
Having shocked fans across the country by guiding his Salford side to last season’s Grand Final, the stock of Watson is surely higher than ever. Despite their humiliating tour defeat, the 43-year-old will have surely learned plenty as understudy to Bennett – a seasoned winner at domestic level – and will only grow as a coach with more experiences like this. We know that Watson can get the very best out of a largely average group of players, so it will be intriguing to see what could happen if he was given a wealth of talent to choose from.
Another experienced English coach with a rising reputation at club level, Powell is capable of coaching a team to produce the kind of expansive rugby that national team fans are craving. Since taking over at Castleford little over six-and-a-half years ago, Powell has slowly but surely turned his side into genuine contenders for silverware, and on their day, the Tigers are one of the most enjoyable sides to watch in Super League. He guided Castleford to their highest ever league position in the Super League era and helped them to their first Wembley appearance in 20 years, albeit resulting in defeat to Leeds in 2014. Despite also experiencing final heartache against the Rhinos in the 2017 Super League Grand Final, he is surely destined to end his wait for silverware very soon, and a 65% win percentage over the course of his career only emphasises how talented the 54-year-old really is.
A coach with over five years coaching experience in the national game, could McNamara be set for a return to the international stage? The 48-year-old become England boss in 2010 after five years with Bradford and guided the national side to the 2013 World Cup semi-finals, albeit ending in a heartbreaking defeat to New Zealand. McNamara had a stint as Trent Robinson’s assistant in the NRL before taking over at Catalans three seasons ago. Despite bringing in a number of star names, the Dragons have failed to better their sixth-placed league finish, achieved the year before McNamara joined. Nevertheless, he would be familiar with the ins and outs of an international setup, and would certainly be a safe – if a little underwhelming – appointment.
Having taken Toronto from the second tier of English rugby to Super League, McDermott may be wondering if he is in a position to start looking at combining his role at the Wolfpack with a national team position. The 49-year-old is no stranger to such a scenario, having combined his full-time duties at Leeds with a part time role at the USA Hawks for three years before stepping aside in April last year. McDermott helped the Hawks qualify for the 2017 World Cup, and following his departure, USA failed to qualify for the 2021 edition of the competition. The Yorkshireman – who won eight pieces of silverware in as many season’s at Leeds – is comfortable dealing with big personalities and could be the man to get England’s misfiring national team back on track.
Despite being the only coach on the list operating outside of Super League, do not bet against Great Britain assistant Ward being a strong candidate for a future national team vacancy. His incredible work at London certainly didn’t go unnoticed, and despite being unable to stop the Broncos from returning to the Betfred Championship at the first time of asking, he created an immense sense of spirit and pride at putting on the shirt. Some have questioned whether donning the England or Great Britain jersey strikes the same emotional chord as it once did in past years, but with Ward at the helm, there would be no question that players wearing the infamous kit would need to fight like warriors to retain their place in the side.