English rugby league great Kevin Sinfield has expressed his reservations about the prospect of new England coach Wayne Bennett selecting Australia-born players for the national team.
Bennett, the veteran Brisbane Broncos coach who has succeeded Steve McNamara as England boss, is thought to have sounded out Trent Hodkinson, Darcy Lussick and the Morris twins, Brett and Josh, ahead of the 2016 Four Nations Series.
Sinfield, who won 40 caps for his country and captained England up to the end of the 2013 World Cup, joined in the debate at his first media briefing as rugby director for the Rugby Football League.
“I’ve got one hat saying Wayne can pick who he wants but, having been a former England international, I would probably be disappointed if we pushed it too far,” Sinfield said.
“It’s a difficult one but the decisions made so far have been for the right reasons.
“I’ve played with Chris Heighington, Maurie Fa’asavalu and Rangi Chase and every one of those players have wanted to put the jersey on.
“What I would say is that our competition is very strong and I’d like to think the group would be picked from our core base of players in the UK and our NRL players who have already played.”
Among his tasks in his part-time role with the RFL will be a review of the team’s 2016 Four Nations campaign and a remit to put in place a four-year plan for the 2021 World Cup.
Sinfield, who met Bennett during a trip to Australia in May, hopes to work with the England team and, according to RFL chief executive Nigel Wood, will be involved in the appointment of a full-time assistant to Bennett but he has vowed not to tread on the new head coach’s toes.
“I’ve spoken to Wayne but not since my appointment,” he said.
“I was over in Australia at the end of May for the first State of Origin game and Wayne was very accommodating, although I’m not sure he knew this role was being talked through.
“I’m not part of the coaching team and I won’t be involved in selection but I will help with the logistics behind the scenes.
“I’ll be watching the Four Nations from afar but I’ll be available if Wayne needs me to be.”