Wayne Bennett set to remain England head coach
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 16/02/18 9:32am
Veteran Australian Wayne Bennett is set to continue as England head coach.
The 68-year-old's two-year contract with the Rugby Football League ran out after he guided England to the final of the 2017 World Cup but it is believed he has been persuaded to stay on in the job.
The RFL accepted a recommendation from rugby director Kevin Sinfield, the former Leeds and England captain who has conducted a review into the national team's performance at the World Cup, and confirmation of the reappointment of Bennett is expected early next week.
Bennett, who succeeded Steve McNamara two years ago on a part-time basis while continuing his day job with Brisbane Broncos, declined to discuss his future in the immediate aftermath of December's final.
However, the former Australia and Queensland coach won many admirers for the way he turned England into a competitive force after a dismal 2016 Four Nations, guiding them to a first World Cup final for 22 years, and to a man the players expressed their support for his continued involvement.
The reappointment will head off any possible move for Bennett's services from New Zealand, who earlier this week changed their eligibility rules to give them the opportunity to appoint an Australian as their head coach following a review into the Kiwis' disappointing World Cup.
Bennett assisted Stephen Kearney when New Zealand won the World Cup in 2008 and during the 2017 campaign he raised the possibility of returning to a role with them.
He will now go up against the Kiwis in the proposed mid-summer international in Denver and the end-of-season three-match Test series in the UK.
The Test match in Colorado, pencilled in for Saturday, June 23, is expected to be confirmed next week by Australian promoter Jason Moore, who wants to use the game to build up interest ahead of the 2025 World Cup which will be hosted by the United States.
Before then, England will host the 2021 World Cup and whether Bennett will still be at the helm by then is unclear.
He will be 71 when that tournament starts and the RFL may be inclined to ask Bennett to help choose his successor in the way that another Australian, Eddie Jones, has been asked to groom the next England rugby union head coach.
Sinfield and the RFL's interim chief executive Ralph Rimmer are big admirers of Castleford coach Daryl Powell, the 2017 Super League coach of the year, as well as Bennett, whose contract with the Broncos runs out at the end of 2019.
The RFL is also close to finalising the rest of the national coaching set-up, with the England Knights set to be reformed later this year to take part in a new Six Nations Championship.