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Rugby League: England ends Bennett experiment, hires Wane

LONDON (AP) — England's rugby league team ended its experiment with Australian coach Wayne Bennett by hiring Shaun Wane on a two-year deal that will take in the World Cup in 2021. Bennett, who became only England's second foreign-born coach when taking over in 2016, led the team to the World Cup final in 2017.

He wanted to stay on to the 2021 tournament, which is being held in England, but was not offered a new contract after his last one expired at the end of last year. "He was philosophical but very disappointed," said Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer, who broke the news personally to Bennett while the coach was in Australia. “He had an ambition to take us to the World Cup but he was as professional as ever.”

Bennett's role came under pressure after Britain lost all four matches of its November tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Aside from the results, he was criticised for selecting Australia-born players for Britain.

The 55-year-old Wane left his position as coach of Wigan Warriors after guiding his hometown team to a third Grand Final in the Super League at the end of the 2018 season. He has spent the last year working as high performance coach for the Scottish Rugby Union.

The RFL said former England captain Kevin Sinfield will step down from his role as head of the England performance unit with immediate effect. Sinfield was a strong supporter of Bennett. “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,” Sinfield said.

“His passion for this group of players to succeed in a home World Cup was evident every time I spoke to him about his players and I know it will be a disappointment that he cannot complete that journey with them.”

Wane said he will not restrict himself to English-born players. "I will pick players who are the best for England," he said. “The one thing they need to be is passionate for England and whoever is going to deliver those wins in the Ashes will be in.”

England will play an Ashes series against Australia this year.

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