Former Wigan coach Shaun Wane has put his NRL ambitions on hold after replacing Wayne Bennett as England mentor for this year’s Ashes series against Australia and the 2021 World Cup campaign.
Wane, who took Wigan to three Super League titles, five grand finals, Challenge Cup glory and World Club Challenge success, was appointed to the England job after a review of last year’s disastrous Great Britain Lions tour.
Bennett, who had guided England to a 6-0 loss to the Kangaroos in the 2017 World Cup final, wanted to continue in the role but the RFL board decided a full-time coach based in the UK was needed.
Wane has expressed his interest in coaching in the NRL on a number of occasions since leaving Wigan at the end of the 2018 season but he will now focus solely on the England job.
“I am honoured to be appointed head coach of my country’s national team at such an exciting and important time for rugby league in England,” Wane said.
“We have a three-Test Ashes series against Australia this autumn, and after that we host the World Cup in 2021.
“Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve always loved the game of rugby league, and been proud of British Rugby League.
“I’m looking forward so much to starting work with the outstanding rugby league players we have in this country, and also the guys who have enjoyed success in Australia in recent years, to do all we can to win the World Cup next year.”
Wane will return to the code after spending the past year working as high-performance coach for Scottish Rugby.
RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer said the decision to end Bennett’s four years in charge of England and Great Britain followed a review into all aspects of the first Lions tour since 2006, in which Bennett’s men lost all four Tests against Tonga, New Zealand (twice) and Papua New Guinea.
There was heavy criticism of Bennett’s selections, particularly his decision to play Australian-born playmaker Blake Austin on the wing after winger Ash Handley was flown to PNG for the final Test.
“After careful consideration of the review report, the RFL board concluded that a change of direction on the position of head coach was the next evolution alongside adopting several of the recommendations made,” Rimmer said.
“We are confident that one of the benefits of Shaun’s appointment will be to further build support for and belief in the national team from the rugby league community and know that he will work closely with the clubs within this process.
“I’d like to place on record on behalf of the RFL and England and Great Britain Rugby League our thanks to Wayne Bennett for his immense contribution as our head coach over the last four years, when England reached the 2017 World Cup final and had an excellent home series win against New Zealand in 2018.
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“Wayne is a very special coach and has taken us on a great journey. Once you see him operate up close then it becomes clear why he has been so successful, and each of our players who have experienced that will have benefited hugely – as have I.”
Wane was appointed on a two-year deal, which will end after the 2021 World Cup in England.
“Shaun is passionate about the game and his country, and also an outstanding coach, as shown by his record in eight seasons as Wigan’s head coach, a major feature of which was the success he and the club had in developing so many homegrown players,” Rimmer said.