Widnes coach Denis Betts has been appointed as the assistant – and potentially the successor – to new England boss Wayne Bennett.
The appointment was announced by the Rugby Football League, who say the former Wigan and Great Britain forward will form a key part of Bennett’s backroom staff leading up to the 2016 Four Nations Series and the 2017 World Cup.
Bennett said: “Denis will be keeping an eye on the games in the UK as we start to put plans in place for the forthcoming Four Nations tournament.”
Betts, who on Thursday extended his contract with the Vikings for a further two years, will now be seen as potentially the next England head coach.
The Brisbane mentor, who has succeeded Steve McNamara, has taken on the job until the 2017 World Cup, when he’s expected to hand over the reins to his assistant.
Bennett added: “Denis was a wonderful player for England and as a coach is someone who gets the best out of his players.”
Betts, who won 36 international caps and gained 13 major honours during a glittering career with Wigan, had a spell on the coaching staff of his hometown club after hanging up his boots in 1991 before taking up a spell in rugby union as skills coach at Gloucester.
He spent four-and-a-half years at Kingsholm before being appointed by Widnes in 2010 and guided them to promotion to Super League in 2011.
“I am delighted that Wayne has asked me to be assistant coach for the national team,” said Betts, who was the last England captain to lead the team out in a World Cup final in 1995.
“Wayne is an iconic figure in the game and to work with and learn from someone with his experience is an opportunity I am relishing.
“There are some incredibly talented players in and around the England squad and I am confident that they will be able to do their country proud in this year’s Four Nations and at the World Cup next year.
“I am excited to be given the opportunity to work with them and I am looking forward to meeting up with all of the selected players in October.”
Bennett will travel to the UK in June to meet with British-based players and announce his full backroom staff while he is in the country.
England will play a Test match against France at the end of the season in preparation for their Four Nations opener against New Zealand at Huddersfield on October 29.