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Veteran Australian Wayne Bennett has emerged as a shock candidate to take over from Steve McNamara as England head coach.
The 66-year-old Bennett, a former Kangaroos boss who is the most successful coach in Australian rugby league with seven Grand Final wins, could be appointed next month to take charge of England in the 2016 Four Nations Series, Press Association Sport understands.
Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood declined to comment on the position of McNamara, who has been in the post since 2010, but said an announcement was due in February.
Although McNamara guided England to a 2-1 series win over New Zealand in November, a first success since 2007, Wood remained unconvinced that he was the right man to take the team into the next World Cup in 2017.
"Most observers would agreed that England have made great progress so far under Steve McNamara's stewardship but, after five years in charge and with the current contract term just expiring, it is right and proper that we reflect on what we need to do to take us forward into the next World Cup," Wood said in a recent interview.
McNamara, whose contract expired at the end of the Test series with the Kiwis, has met with Wood three times since then, most recently during a whistle-stop trip by Wood and RFL chairman Brian Barwick to Australia, where the former Hull and Bradford forward works as an assistant coach at Sydney Roosters.
Bennett, who won the Grand Final six times as Brisbane Broncos boss and once with St George Illawarra, has had two stints as Australia coach, in 1998 and 2004-05, and was assistant to Stephen Kearney when New Zealand won the 2008 World Cup.
Bennett, who was keen to regain the Kangaroos role that was recently given to Mal Meninga, is currently in charge of the World XIII for the forthcoming All Stars curtain-raiser in Brisbane and will bring his Broncos team to England next month for their World Club Series clash with Wigan on February 20.
McNamara, who recently signed a new two-year deal with the Roosters, is also due over for his club's WCC meeting with St Helens on February 19.
It is unclear if the RFL would ask McNamara to work under Bennett or appoint an England-based coach.
Bradford coach James Lowes was McNamara's right-hand man for the Test series against New Zealand.
McNamara, 44, has been on the national coaching staff for the last nine years, initially as assistant to Tony Smith with Great Britain, and took over when Smith stepped down at the end of the 2009 Four Nations final.
Appointed by the RFL as head coach the following April, Bradford agreed to release McNamara from his contract three months later to enable him to go full-time with England in the build-up to the 2013 World Cup.
The former Hull, Bradford, Wakefield and Huddersfield forward was handed a new two-year contract at the end of the last World Cup two years ago when the role reverted to part-time and he joined the Roosters on a two-year deal.
Under McNamara, England have won 14 of their 23 full internationals, but only three against New Zealand and none against Australia.
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