England coaching situation, and North America expansion bids, set for resolution

Ralph Rimmer has confirmed a decision on the future of the England head coach position will be announced within the coming weeks as a review into the disastrous Great Britain tour nears a conclusion.

The review is set to be completed in time for a board meeting on February 6th, with an announcement set to be revealed in the following days.

“We’re not going to keep everyone waiting,” he said.

“The review is comprehensive and everything will be distributed to the board for consideration.

“We’re not flippant about this. It’s a big decision but nevertheless, we announced the timetable when we left the tour and everything is on track there.”

Rimmer went on to confirm the Rugby Football League had received external applications for the role.

“I will say that the top four teams in the world – because of Tonga’s emergence – if any of those coaching posts came up, you would expect there to be a strong field of candidates.

“Yes, plenty of candidates have emerged but Wayne is the coach at this moment in time and the work that is being done is leaving no stone unturned.”

Bennett, 70, saw his support from the English supporters disappear after he oversaw the Great Britain Autumn tour that ended with four straight defeats, including an embarrassing one to Papua New Guinea.

Rimmer acknowledged that retaining Bennett could affect sales for the upcoming Ashes test.

“But the primary concern is to win the World Cup in 2021 and it would be naive not to think that would have to be taken into consideration.

“The driving force at the moment is that the recommendation is this is the right person to win the World Cup in 2021.”

Meanwhile, Rimmer said the RFL is confident the Duke of Sussex will continue in his role as patron of the governing body, despite the news that he is set to step away from his duties as part of the Royal Family.

Prince Harry will make the draw for the World Cup on Thursday, which is set to attract the eyes of the world.

“In light of everything that has happened recently we’re honoured that the Prince will make that draw.

“He’s been a superb patron for us, from the moment he walked through the door two and a half years ago. There could be some disappointment that there’s no decision on the coach by then but it’s a standalone event.

“Of course there will be the eyes and ears of the world’s media on that event and I suppose the event will benefit from that. It’s a difficult timeframe, I’m just pleased we’ve been able to make it work for us.

“As far as I understand from the news, there will be some clarifications on that ironed out today, so we’ll see how his patronages work out after that. We haven’t had anything negative from the palace regarding our patronage, but there are plenty of wheels turning in the machine at this moment in time.

“I’m very hopeful. From what I know – though all bets are off – I think his patronages will remain, but that could change.”

He continued: “I’d say he’s been enormously genuine in what he’s done. When we were first made aware of the fact he would become our patron, I contacted his office to ask if he’d present the cup. The response was that he didn’t just want to turn up on day one and present the cup, he wanted to do some work within the sport that made him more genuine before we got to that point.

“He’s done community stuff, some work at Headingley and some work with the England Performance Unit. When we got to the World Cup final he produced a video which we didn’t ask for, which we showed internally.

“It was a great piece of work, and every dealing I’ve had with him shows him as a thoroughly decent person who seems to have an affinity with the sport.”

In other news, Rimmer confirmed announcements on the prospects of the New York and Ottawa franchises would be made shortly.

“We’ve contacted both clubs with the terms under which we expect them to cooperate if they want to come into the competitions. 

“There will be some announcements very soon. I’ve contacted both clubs, as I say. They were initially disappointed but they understood that our role as a governing body is to tick as many boxes as possible for a team coming into the competitions.

“We’re there to not only protect someone who comes in but the competition and its integrity. It’s not quite as straightforward as a team coming in, there’s a lot to get through. But we have the Wolfpack as a learning journey and that journey continues to teach us some lessons.”

Though Rimmer cast doubt on the prospect of Red Star Belgrade joining the structure next year, despite stating their intent to do so.

When asked if their optimism surrounding 2021 entry was fair he replied: “I love an optimist.
“There are others too. What I think is really exciting is we’ve created something that people want to join and want membership of. It’s attracting bids from all over – some more credible than others – but the fact people aspire to be a part of it is great.”