ALTHOUGH Wayne Bennett’s future as England coach remains uncertain after Great Britain’s disastrous tour, RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer says rugby director Kevin Sinfield’s position is definitely not under threat.
Bennett’s contract expired after the misfiring Lions – reformed for the first time since 2007 – returned home this month having lost all four Tests in the southern hemisphere.
The veteran Australian wants to carry on and take England through to the 2021 World Cup but he has come under intense pressure after some dismal showings from the Lions against a Tonga Invitational XIII, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Sinfield has come in for criticism, too, for some aspects of the underwhelming Lions trip but Rimmer revealed yesterday that the Leeds Rhinos director of rugby will actually assist him in reviewing the tour ahead of making a decision about Bennett’s future.
Asked about a timeframe for that review and Bennett’s position, he said: “I wouldn’t just nail it down to one position – it’s much more far-reaching than that.
“But we’ve said publicly that we will take until the end of the year to come through the review, the Executive will make a recommendation and then that will go to the (RFL) Board.
“There will be a great deal of consultation and Wayne’s role is a part of that. It’s going to be a considered piece of work that will get us to a good place.”
At the media briefing at Saddleworth Rangers ARLFC, Rimmer was asked if Sinfield was under threat.
But he replied: “No. It’s not something we have to consider.
“Kevin is doing the review with me and that’s it.”
Clearly, Bennett could still carry on in his role as well after building up a bank of solid work since taking over in 2016.
Rimmer was at pains to point that out as the post-mortem into what went so badly wrong during the four-week tour continues.
“Certainly he has a chance (of getting a new contract) – and we shouldn’t forget what Wayne has done up until this point,” he said.
“Yes, we had a poor year on the field and nobody can deny that.
“We all hurt – the players, coaching staff and everybody involved in it hurt.
“But until this point we have progressed really well.
“We came very close to a World Cup (losing the 2017 final) and we beat the Kiwis in a series last year.
“Some aspects of the tour we were disappointed in, of course.
“But some were positive as well.”
Rimmer continued: “We’re doing the review now – it’s important that it’s considered, reflective and not reactionary to come up with the right answers.
“We want to win a World Cup in 2021 and need to make sure we’re on track to do that.”
Former Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane and Castleford Tigers chief Daryl Powell have been touted as potential replacements should the RFL decide to go in a different direction.
“There’s plenty of coaching talent out there,” admitted Rimmer.
“That doesn’t mean Wayne’s position is either weakened or strengthened, however.
“I also think the assistants we took on the tour were outstanding, Ian (Watson) and Danny (Ward). Just watching them work, I spoke to players in all sorts of different settings about them and there were positive reviews.”
Rimmer was pressed on whether he thought there was damage to the Lions brand – there seemed little differentiation between England and Great Britain on tour – and how much responsibility the governing body would take for that.
“I’m not going to pre-empt any view; let’s do the review first,” he said.
Rimmer said “I’ll tell you in eight weeks’ time” when it was put to him whether we will see Great Britain again, one of the most pertinent questions posed since the tourists returned home.
He was more definitive when asked if the tour results were a fair reflection on the British game: “No, I don’t.”
The CEO revealed talks are on-going over a mid-season Test next year for England to prepare for the home Ashes series with Australia and that game is likely to take place in the southern hemisphere.
Meanwhile, on the potential of midweek matches for the Kangaroos – with Wigan, Leeds and St Helens all thought to be interested – he added: “It’s still under discussion and certainly possible.
“Logistically that’s big and we’d certainly need to make that stack up from a commercial perspective but it’s not impossible.”
On the domestic front, Rimmer confirmed that the RFL and Super League had reached agreement with regards working together in certain areas of securing a new broadcast deal.
He said: “There was nothing on the table before – but we’ve negotiated a position now.
“(Super League’s) Robert (Elstone) and I know the game needs to work together in order to maximise income streams. That was one of the reasons for brokering a position in the first instance.”