Bennett defended from Cunningham broadside

Wayne Bennett instructs James Graham and Sam Burgess (right) during a training session at South Leeds Stadium
Wayne Bennett instructs James Graham and Sam Burgess (right) during a training session at South Leeds Stadium

Despite a verbal broadside from St Helens boss Keiron Cunningham over plans to take an elite group of Super League on a winter camp, England coach Wayne Bennett has received the 100 per cent support of RFL chief executive Nigel Wood, who says he could remain in charge of the national team beyond the 2017 World Cup.

Under the veteran Australian, England failed to reach the final of the Four Nations Series after losing to both New Zealand and Australia but Wood believes his impact will be felt over the next 12 months.

England's head coach Wayne Bennett

England's head coach Wayne Bennett

“Although there is disappointment that we didn’t make the final, I think the five weeks that he spent with the players were invaluable,” Wood said.

“I think they all benefited as a consequence of that. All of the feedback that I got, through observation and the written feedback that we asked the players to submit, was very positive.”

Bennett, who succeeded Steve McNamara on a two-year contract last January, has provoked stinging criticism from Cunningham over his plans to take between 18 and 20 Super League players to a pre-season camp in early January, but Wood believes the clubs will back the head coach.

“He’s challenged us, he’s challenged us organisationally, he’s challenged the sport in this country, saying this is what I think we need to do to become as good as the best in the world.

“If you get someone who is regarded as the best in class, you’ve got an obligation to listen to him when he tells you what you need to do better.