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 boss Steve McNamara, whose contract ran out at the end of November’s Test series against New Zealand and has not being renewed.
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: “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.
“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.
Now he is set to go up against Kearney and Mal Meninga, the man who beat him to the current Kangaroos job, when England host the Four Nations Series in October and November.
The announcement of McNamara’s departure comes almost three months after he guided England to a 2-1 victory over the world number one-ranked Kiwis, the national team’s first series triumph for eight years.
Wood added: “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.”
The former Bradford boss succeeded Tony Smith in 2010 after working as his assistant for the previous three years, initially in a full-time capacity before reverting to part-time after the 2013 World Cup, when England lost in the last seconds of the first semi-final to New Zealand.
McNamara then took up a full-time post as assistant coach at Sydney Roosters and recently signed a new two-year contract with them.
The appointment of Bennett is guaranteed to divide opinion.
Former England captains Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield have already criticised the move, insisting that McNamara should have been re-appointed for the 2017 World Cup, while Australian legend Wally Lewis has voiced his disapproval, saying an Australian should not be coaching an England team.