He may be the NRL’s most successful coach but Wayne Bennett will have a point to prove at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, Mal Meninga says.
Kangaroos mentor Meninga admitted on Tuesday at the World Cup draw in Brisbane that England would be more dangerous with Bennett at the helm.
Especially after the master coach was snubbed for the Australian head coach gig.
“He wanted to coach the Australian side so he will have a point to prove,” Meninga said of his former Queensland coach Bennett.
“He will be motivated, no doubt about that.
“Now he has taken on the England job – it will be a great tussle.”
Seven-time premiership coach Bennett switched his allegiances to England after Meninga was preferred as the Kangaroos mentor late last year.
Meninga took over as Kangaroos coach after winning nine State of Origin series in 10 years with the Queensland reins.
He again got Bennett’s nose out of joint in May for naming his Kangaroos side for the trans-Tasman Test a week early.
Broncos coach Bennett complained that the team announcement had distracted Brisbane’s representative players ahead of an NRL loss to Cronulla.
The stage is now set for a classic master versus apprentice battle at the World Cup.
Meninga will first face an England side led by his former Maroons coach Bennett at the end-of-year Four Nations in the UK.
But he believed the real test would loom at the 2017 World Cup, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Australia will open the tournament against Bennett’s England at Melbourne on October 27 next year.
“His team will be very well prepared and we have got them in game one,” Meninga said.
“It (Bennett’s coaching) makes them dangerous I reckon.
“We will be well prepared and ready to go.”
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney couldn’t help but wade into the debate over Bennett’s World Cup impact.
Kearney – Bennett’s deputy at NRL club Brisbane – said England loomed as a very different prospect under the master coach.
“Wayne will bring a steely resolve to the group,” he said.
“I have seen a real improvement in England the last couple of years, and Wayne will add that little bit more to them,” he said.
“It ensures the Kiwis and Mal (Australia) will need to be better.
“But none of us (New Zealand) are scared of anyone – at our best we back ourselves against anyone.”