On this day in 2016: Wayne Bennett replaces Steve McNamara as England head coach
The Rugby Football League appointed Australian Wayne Bennett as England’s new head coach on this day in 2016.
Bennett, then 66 and widely acknowledged as the leading coach in the sport, signed a two-year contract to replace Steve McNamara while continuing in his role with the Brisbane Broncos.
McNamara’s contract had expired after leading England to a 2-1 Test series win against New Zealand, the world’s top-ranked side at the time, the previous November.
Bennett said: “I’m 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 I believe have what it takes to succeed on the international stage.”
The veteran Queenslander, who had twice coached Australia, had enjoyed unrivalled success Down Under, where he guided Brisbane and St George Illawarra to seven Grand Final triumphs.
He had also been assistant to Stephen Kearney when New Zealand won the 2008 World Cup.
Bennett’s appointment by England divided opinion. Former captains Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield criticised the move, insisting McNamara should have been re-appointed for the 2017 World Cup.
Australia great Wally Lewis also voiced his disapproval, saying an Australian should not be coaching an England team.
Under Bennett, England failed to reach the 2016 Four Nations final as hosts, but the following year reached their first World Cup final in 22 years, narrowly losing out 6-0 to Australia.
Bennett signed a two-year contract extension after the World Cup and guided England to another Test series win against New Zealand in 2018. He was succeeded in the role by current head coach Shaun Wane in 2020.