McNamara clears Bennett’s England path

AP – Steve McNamara has left his role as England head coach, the Rugby Football League has confirmed.

The 44-year-old former Bradford boss, who was appointed in 2010, was out of contract at the end of November’s Test series against New Zealand and has been told he will not be offered a new deal.

RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: “The RFL has concluded that with the 2016 Four Nations and 2017 World Cup on the horizon, now is the time to make any change to the England set-up.”

The move is set to pave the way for the appointment of veteran Australian Wayne Bennett as the new England head coach.

The announcement comes almost three months after McNamara guided England to a 2-1 victory over the world No.1-ranked Kiwis, the national team’s first series triumph for eight years.

“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,” Wood added.

“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.

It is thought Bennett could be confirmed as McNamara’s successor later on Tuesday.

Bennett, who turned 66 on New Year’s Day, is widely acknowledged as the leading coach in the sport following his unrivalled success in Australia, where he guided Brisbane and St George Illawarra to seven grand-final triumphs.

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 appointment 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.

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