England may be in Wayne Bennett’s sights but Kangaroos back-rower Sam Thaiday reckons rugby league will benefit most if the master coach focuses on Pacific Island nations.
Bennett is reportedly set to take over England’s reins from Steve McNamara as early as this month after missing out on the Kangaroos job.
Thaiday says he would have no problem with his mentor at the Broncos juggling NRL duties with the England gig.
However, he believes the code would be the big winner if Bennett used his Midas touch to help some of the code’s international minnows.
The NRL has begun to raise the profile of Pacific Islander football, hosting a double header featuring Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and PNG.
This year it will be held at Parramatta on May 7 during the mid-season representative round.
But Thaiday believes the concept would move ahead in leaps and bounds with Bennett involved.
“He should probably coach Cook Islands or Vanuatu, one of those developing nations, and help them out,” Thaiday said.
“We all want to see rugby league as an international game.
“You look at rugby union and it is played all over the world.
“Ours seems to be really strong in three countries at the moment (Australia, England, New Zealand).
“We need to continue to develop our game so that when we do have a World Cup it can be a very competitive brand everyone wants to come and watch.”
Last year’s Pacific Island Test double header on the Gold Coast was a huge success, sparking calls for Samoa and Tonga to host their own Origin-like series.
Former Kangaroos mentor Bennett expressed his desire to coach a side at the next World Cup in 2017 after Mal Meninga beat him to the Australian job.
Bennett had been linked to the PNG role before receiving interest from England.
Bennett will reportedly finalise the England deal when he travels to the UK later this month with Brisbane for the World Club Challenge.
Thaiday joked Bennett may provide him another option if he misses out on Kangaroos selection under new coach Meninga.
“I am sure I can find some sort of heritage somewhere and Wayne will pick me,” he laughed.
“England have a reputation for picking old front-rowers, we will see.”
Asked about speculation Bennett may be knighted if he leads England to World Cup success, Thaiday said: “A lot of the boys already call him sir – nothing will change.”