Great Britain legend Andy Platt says there were homegrown candidates to rival Wayne Bennett as England rugby league coach – they were just in another code.
But the Wigan great hopes the reaction to Bennett’s appointment might in fact help lure lost league legends Shaun Edwards and Andy Farrell back to the sport.
Bennett has replaced England’s Steve McNamara on a two-year deal, taking in the 2016 Four Nations and the 2017 World Cup.
It has received a mixed reception in the UK, with former England captains Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield insisting McNamara should have been re-appointed.
St Helens mentor Keiron Cunningham was also vocal, saying Super League champion Leeds’ Brian McDermott or Wigan’s Shaun Wane were obvious choices.
It has also prompted niggles from Down Under now that Bennett’s appointment ensures Australian coaches are at the helm of three of England’s major sporting sides – league, cricket and rugby.
Former British forward Platt admitted Bennett was the right man for the job despite wondering how the NRL’s Brisbane master coach would juggle the role.
However, Platt hoped the reaction inspired who he thought were the other worthy candidates – his former Wigan teammates Farrell and Edwards – to return to league.
Both have been successful rugby union coaches since their league playing days ended.
Edwards is the current Wales assistant while Farrell has been appointed Ireland defence coach after a stint as England’s rugby backs mentor.
“I think there are good coaches in England,” Platt told AAP.
“You’ve got Shaun Edwards and Andy Farrell.
“They are both in union but are both league diehards.
“It will be interesting to see with Wayne coming back it might make either of those two to take the step back to rugby league, I don’t know.”
Platt said the long term benefit of Bennett’s appointment in England may depend on who he names as his assistant.
He hopes the Australian takes an Englishman under his wing like he did with Stephen Kearney when involved with New Zealand.
Bennett – also a two-time Australian coach – acted as Kearney’s mentor when the Kiwis claimed a shock 2008 World Cup win.
“Logistically I don’t know how he is going to do it,” Platt said of Bennett’s England role.
“But even if he imparts half of his knowledge to his assistant like he did Stephen Kearney it’s a successful move.
“Time will tell on who he picks as his assistant though.”
Platt could not begrudge the English reins going to Bennett, who he has known since they met in Brisbane in the 1980s.
“You need to pick the best person for the job and he’s the best, he’s the benchmark,” Platt said.
“He did it with New Zealand and if anyone can help England win the World Cup, it’s him.”