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England rugby league coach Wayne Bennett has hit back at critics of his appointment, saying he’s determined to change their opinion by taking the Lions to the top of the international game.
Super League coaches Keiron Cunningham and Daryl Powell both called for the job to be given to home-grown Leeds boss Brian McDermott, ahead of the seven-time premiership winner.
Bennett, in his first press conference on the subject in England, said that he was not surprised at the barbs but felt the disappointment was misplaced.
“There’s nothing (that’s happened) in my life that everybody agreed with. If I listened to them I wouldn’t be here today,” Bennett said.
“It’s not going to worry me. (Cunningham is) entitled to his opinion, my job is to change that opinion.
“…Everyone is talking about the next level (England) can go to and that’s why I’m here.
“I believe I can help them get to that next level. That’s my challenge and that’s the players’ challenge.”
Bennett praised the good work of previous coach Steve McNamara and insisted his goal was not to “change the wheel”.
He also argued England hadn’t done anything groundbreaking by reaching out to him – noting that Australians David Waite and Tony Smith had previously held the role.
“People will have their whinge and point of view for whatever reason,” he continued.
“Sometimes the reason doesn’t match the logic – there’s two previous Australians that have coached here. It’s not groundbreaking stuff.”
Bennett, meanwhile, said he wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of ex-Wallabies coach, and now England rugby mentor, Eddie Jones by singing God Save the Queen before matches once in charge.
“You won’t see that happen, I’m an Australian,” he said.
“That’s Eddie’s prerogative. It won’t be mine.”
Bennett repeated his stance that the main appeal of taking the England job was the challenge and opportunity to grow rugby league internationally, and admitted he would’ve pondered any approach from a Pacific Islands nation and said nearly coached France in 2013.
“It would’ve been (as worthy to coach a Pacific Islands nation) and I would’ve considered that,” he said.
“But they didn’t make the approach. England was there before them.
“I nearly took France at the last World Cup and if I’d have spoken French I probably would’ve.
“But I couldn’t work out how I could coach if I couldn’t talk to people.”