New Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has welcomed the appointment of the man he beat to the top job in Australian rugby league, Wayne Bennett’s appointment as England mentor.
Meninga was preferred as Tim Sheens’ successor as Australian coach in December after Bennett was ruled out due to his role as clipboard holder at Brisbane.
Bennett’s appointment with the England RFL has created a slew of headlines since it was made official earlier this month. Meninga said that could only be a good thing.
“He got the gig he wanted after missing out on the Aussie job,” Meninga told AAP.
“It is great for the international game. Part of the review of last year was trying to raise the profile of rugby league internationally and to have Wayne in charge of the England side is fantastic.
“I feel a bit sorry for (former England coach) Steve McNamara, but at the end of the day, Wayne is the guru and I’m sure he will make sure England are well prepared not only for the World Cup but for the Four Nations at the end of the year.
Dual international, returning South Sydney forward Sam Burgess said Bennett would be “great for English rugby league”.
“I think Wayne will do a fantastic job. No doubt about that. I know him, I spoke to him on the phone and he’s got some good things in place.,” Burgess said.
“Wayne will give us a good platform. Steve’s laid a lot of foundations in English rugby league over the last five years. But I’m sure Wayne will compliment that and add things into the system.”
English sides St Helens, Wigan and Leeds have been comprehensively beaten respectively by NRL outfits Sydney Roosters, Brisbane and North Queensland in the World Club Challenge Series. But Meninga said England would still produce a very competitive national side.
“I know at national level they will have a very strong side,” he said.
“Most of the side plays in the NRL and they are very good players here, they are some of the best players in the NRL.
“I think Wayne’s observation about the quality of all the players has hit the nail on the head and they will have a great squad of 24, 25 top players.
“They will do really well.”