England’s new coach Shaun Wane says a prerequisite for all his players is “passion” as he sets out plans to win an Ashes series and the 2021 World Cup.
However, it is abundantly clear it is the former Wigan Warriors coach’s own passion that put him at the front of the RFL’s queue when looking for a new coach and “new direction”.
They unveiled Wane, who has spent the last 12 months working for Scottish Rugby Union, as the successor to veteran Wayne Bennett at a press conference in Bolton yesterday.
Although Australian Bennett is renowned as one of rugby league’s greatest coaches and helped England reach the 2017 World Cup final in his four-year stint in charge, he had irked many with his approach to the job.
Working on a part-time basis while still operating in the NRL, his miserable reign in charge of Great Britain’s disastrous tour Down Under last year – when the reformed Lions lost all four Tests – had left his position clearly under threat.
The RFL opted against renewing his contract, perhaps concerned that they would struggle to sell tickets for this autumn’s home Ashes series with the Kangaroos but also worried that they would not maximise the potential of England’s best players with Bennett in charge.
Wigan-born Wane, 55, will work full-time for the RFL and has signed a two-year deal.
“I will pick players who are the best for England,” he said, with Bennett also coming in for criticism for selecting Australian-born players and playing players out of position.
“The one thing they need to be is really passionate. Whoever is going to deliver the wins will be in, it’s as simple as that.
“I’m very, very patriotic and very passionate about my country and to get the chance to be head coach is the best feeling ever.
“I am going to work as hard as I can to ensure success.”
Wane left rugby league after masterminding a third Grand Final success with Wigan in 2018.
He became Scotland’s head of performance in Glasgow but will start his new role immediately.
Wane – a former Great Britain prop who played with Leeds from 1990 to 1993 – said: “I’m glad I did it (union). I looked at other sports. In my time with Scotland, I didn’t do much with the top squad but I looked at all the age groups, met some good people and learnt important things which I will use.
“I am a league man but I have had time away and I think it’s made me a better coach. I have an open mind and I try to learn something every day and Scotland did some quality things. I can add to the good stuff that England are already doing.”
RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “We think this is an exciting appointment that will be welcomed by England rugby league supporters.
“Shaun is passionate about the game and his country and is 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 home-grown players.”
However, the decision not to renew Bennett’s deal has led to Kevin Sinfield leaving the RFL.
The highly-decorated former England captain joined the governing body as rugby director in 2016 and became head of England’s performance unit.
It was only in January last year that Sinfield, the Leeds Rhinos director of rugby, extended his contract with the RFL into 2022.
Alongside Rimmer, he led a review into the disappointing Lions tour but remains a big supporter of South Sydney coach Bennett and has now quit his role.
Wane will now take on some of Sinfield’s duties but a new appointment will also be made.
“We’re obviously very sad about Kevin’s decision to step down from his role at the RFL and the England Performance Unit,” said Rimmer.
“We did try to convince him to stay but he has made his decision.
“Kevin’s contribution has been huge but there is a strong structure there. I can’t see me finding a like for like but there will be a replacement.”
Sinfield was “immensely proud” of the progress made with all three senior national teams and added: “I would particularly like to pay tribute to Wayne Bennett as England head coach.
“Wayne has always shown nothing but complete commitment to the England cause during his time in charge of the national team and the wealth of knowledge he has given to our players and coaches will enhance the game in this country for many years to come.”
Rimmer had spoken to Bennett and said he was “philosophical and very disappointed but as professional as always.”