World All Stars coach Wayne Bennett at the announcement of the 2016 All Stars squads.

Bennett to grow the game with England role

Wayne Bennett has signed on as coach of the England rugby league team – a move that will bring exposure and growth to the international game. 

The 66-year-old's decision to coach the England side has already divided opinions among the game's greatest. 

Wally Lewis, arguably the greatest player to play the game, voiced his concerns before the decision was even officially announced. 

Lewis's concerns centred on Bennett coaching a side that is not his home country – previously a non-issue for the master coach with Bennett famously coaching New Zealand to a World Cup win in 2008 against the Australian Kangaroos. 

If this proves anything it is that Bennett's desire to coach knows no nationality, state or club – he simply wants to grow the game. 

Bennett was overlooked by the Australian selectors when the Kangaroos job became vacant in late 2015, with Queensland coach Mal Meninga getting the job.

Having returned to his beloved Brisbane Broncos last year, it is clear Bennett wanted a change from the familiarity he has discovered at club level.

This, to England's benefit, gifted the old enemy one of Australia's greatest coaches. 

It is a huge coup for the team ranked third in the world as they try to bridge the gap to powerhouses Australia and New Zealand. 

The question remains though: if Bennett wanted to grow the game across the world, should he have signed on as coach of a country outside the big three?

Sam Thaiday, Broncos captain at the Downer Auckland Nines, told NRL.com how much it would mean to the game if someone like Bennett decided to coach a minnow nation. 

"He should probably go and coach Cook Islands or Vanuatu – one of those developing nations. It would really help them out," Thaiday said. 

"We all want to see rugby league as an international game. You look at rugby union and it's played all over the world and it's a very popular game. 

"Our game seems to be really strong in three nations and then there are the Island nations that are strong but we need to continue to develop our game so when we do have a World Cup it can be a competitive competition that everyone wants to come and watch."

It is a point that is hard to argue against, with fourth-ranked Samoa a whopping 375 ranking points behind England. To put this in perspective, England is just 64 ranking points behind the second ranked Australian team. 

Italy, the 12th-ranked team, only has 65 total ranking points to their name. 

For the game to grow, lower tier nations need to improve. For now Bennett may not be the answer but anything is possible in his future endeavours. 

Brisbane will remain his first priority and Thaiday has found humour in Bennett's decision to take the English coaching job. 

"If Mal doesn't pick me maybe I can find some sort of heritage and Wayne will pick me," Thaiday said.  

"England has a reputation of picking old front rowers so we will see what happens. 

"A lot of the boys already call Wayne 'Sir', so if he gets knighted I don't think much will change."