English rugby league great Adrian Morley has hit back at critics of Wayne Bennett’s appointment as England coach.
The English RFL announced last week the seven-time premiership-winning coach would replace Steve McNamara for this year’s Four Nations where England will take on Australia, New Zealand and Scotland.
The decision received mixed reactions from many in the Super League community with St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham and Castleford’s Daryl Powell, a one-time assistant of McNamara, both speaking out against the move to not appoint a home-grown coach.
But Morley, who played more than 50 internationals for Great Britain/England, couldn’t see a negative in Bennett taking control of a team that haven’t beaten Australia in a series for 46 years.
“I think it’s great for the sport over here to entice someone of that stature in the game to be national coach,” Morley told AAP in London.
“It’s fantastic, and if he can’t get the best out the English players then nobody can. It’s a real shot in the arm for rugby league in this country.”
The former Sydney Roosters enforcer enjoyed an outstanding career in the NRL and, having faced several Bennett teams over the years, believes his arrival can lift England to the next level following their series win over the Kiwis late last year – leaving him bemused by Cunningham and Powell’s comments.
“I can’t see where the criticism is coming from,” he said.
“We’ve had Australian coaches before in David Waite and Tony Smith but we’re not talking about an average coach here … it’s Wayne Bennett.
“I’m all in favour of giving home-grown coaches a shot if they are good enough but in my opinion there is no one with as strong a resume as Wayne Bennett.”
Bennett will be able to call on Sam Burgess following his return to rugby league after a short and unhappy stint in English rugby union.
Morley believes Burgess will pick up from where he left off in the NRL when he runs out for South Sydney for the first time since winning the Clive Churchill Medal in the 2014 grand final.
“I’m chuffed he’s back in rugby league and he’ll be champing at the bit to show why he was regarded as the best player in the world before he left for rugby union,” he said.
“Souths struggled without him last year and he could be the added spark they need to be premiers again.”