Both hemispheres in the Rugby League world started to take notice of England RL when the rumours started circling about the potential appointment of ‘super coach’ Wayne Bennett.
The Australian is the perfect replacement for Steve McNamara, who flattered to deceive during his reign despite a 2-1 series win over a depleted Kiwis side last year.
With the return of Sam Burgess to the menacing forward pack, everything is in place for England to win the Four Nations, which will be perfect preparation for the World Cup which takes place 12 months later. A Four Nations triumph would get international rugby league back on to the sporting radar in the northern hemisphere and that’s exactly what the RFL are looking for.
Bennett’s appointment has been praised and scrutinised in equal measure from what I’ve seen on social media over the past 24 hours or so.
Some fans wanted an English coach to take charge of the England team and, with the talent that could be available if persuaded, it’s easy to see where they’re coming from.
Daryl Powell, Brian McDermott and Shaun Wane stand out as the three English options who could have taken on the job while possibly carrying on their work with their respective clubs.
However, it is Bennett who has been given the opportunity to bring out the best in a talented bunch of players. I think it’s the right decision completely and the fact that he is still coaching the Brisbane Broncos makes no real difference to me as McNamara was also in Australia, as assistant to Trent Robinson at Sydney Roosters, during his time in the hot-seat.
Bennett will bring masses of experience to the table and the players will learn a lot under his guidance. The fact a seven-time NRL Grand Final winning coach has taken on this role really does speak volumes about the potential he has spotted in the squad.
It’s also worth noting that the Broncos will be taking part in the World Club Series and with discussions taking place ‘in due course’ about Bennett’s backroom staff, it’ll be interesting to see who he picks as his assistant.
We move back to the three aforementioned English coaches. Powell, Wane and McDermott should be rubbing their hands together at the thought of working alongside the ‘super coach’. All three have been coaching at the top tier for numerous years now and, with a minimum of two years and two major competitions to learn from Bennett, it’s a great opportunity for whoever is chosen. McDermott may be out of the running with his role with the American national team.
The outside bet for England assistant coach is former Leigh coach Paul Rowley. A young coach, who has been used to winning in recent years, will want to fine-tune his coaching skills from the Championship and there’s no better person to work with than Bennett.
Two years under the Clint Eastwood lookalike would be the perfect apprenticeship for Rowley before taking the role full-time.
Whatever happens over the next two years, it’ll be hard not to get excited about the prospect of England being led into the two biggest international rugby league competitions with Bennett as coach.