Kevin Sinfield has expressed his regret that Wayne Bennett will be “unable to complete his journey” with the England team, after being replaced by Shaun Wane as coach.
As part of the changes, Sinfield leaves his position as head of England’s performance unit with immediate effect.
Sinfield was instrumental in creating the Performance Unit in his role as the RFL’s Rugby Director, but will now stand down to allow the RFL “to follow a new direction as the national teams prepare for the 2021 World Cup”.
Commenting on Bennett’s departure, Sinfield said: “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.
“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.
“I am certain, like me, he will wish the team every success in the future as they look to fulfil their undoubted potential.”
Sinfield added: “I am immensely proud of the progress we have made with all three of our senior national teams.
“In 2018, the England men’s team won four out of five Test matches in the calendar year, winning a series for the first time in over a decade, and we saw the re-emergence of the Knights team as a pathway to the national side.
“England Women toured Papua New Guinea in 2019 for the first time with the team being paid in another groundbreaking step whilst our Wheelchair team are amongst the favourites for next year’s World Cup after a strong tour to Australia last year.
“Having reached the 2017 World Cup Final with our men’s team, I was confident we could build on that success in the four-year cycle to a home World Cup in 2021.
“The event will be the greatest tournament our sport has ever hosted and it was my belief that the Performance Unit was best placed to give all our teams, and especially the men’s team, the chance to end our long wait to lift silverware.
“On a personal note, I would like to thank all the staff and players who have worked so hard on all the six England programmes during my time at the RFL.
“Our aim was to put the national teams at the pinnacle of our sport in terms of preparation and development, which I believe we have gone a long way towards achieving.”
RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “For the last two years especially, but well before that, it has been an absolute pleasure to work closely alongside Kevin, who has always provided outstanding leadership, commitment and guidance to the EPU.
“We’re obviously very sad about Kevin’s decision to step down from his role at the RFL and the England Performance Unit.
“We did try to convince him to stay but he has made his decision, and every one of us at the RFL wish him the best in what we’re sure will be a hugely successful future.
“The principles behind the formation of the EPU remain firmly in place, and we’re in a strong place to continue everything we’ve all been working towards.
“I’m grateful to Kevin for his kind words wishing our England teams success for the next two years. In anything we do achieve, his role will always be acknowledged and appreciated and he will remain very much a part of our RLWC2021 journey.”