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England appoint Bennett as new head coach

Wayne Bennett is the new head coach. Credit: PA

Australian Wayne Bennett has been appointed as England's new head coach on a two-year contract, the Rugby Football League has announced.

The most successful Australian rugby league coach in history has agreed a two-year deal with the Rugby Football League that will see him take charge of the England team through the 2016 Four Nations Series and the 2017 World Cup.

Wayne is quite rightly regarded as the outstanding coach of his generation and I am delighted that we have been able to secure his services.

This England team has made considerable progress over the last few years and we now possess truly world class players across all positions. These players deserve the very best support and coaching as we attempt to move from contenders into potential winners of international tournaments.

I believe that Wayne Bennett is undoubtedly the right man to lead this group forward and enable them to do this.

– RFL chief executive Nigel Wood

McNamara leaves role as England head coach

Steve McNamara has left his role as England head coach, the Rugby Football League has confirmed.

The 44-year-old former Bradford boss, who was appointed in 2010, was out of contract at the end of November's Test series against New Zealand and has been told he will not be offered a new deal.

McNamara has left his role as England head coach. Credit: PA

RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: "The RFL has concluded that with the 2016 Four Nations and 2017 World Cup on the horizon, now is the time to make any change to the England set-up."

The move is set to pave the way for the appointment of veteran Australian Wayne Bennett as the new England head coach.

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Burgess to return to rugby league in All Stars match

Sam Burgess will make his official return to rugby league in the NRL All Stars match after being named in Wayne Bennett's World side.

The dual-code international, whose inclusion is subject to finalising his NRL contract with South Sydney, is one of four Sydney-based England internationals selected in the team to play the Indigenous side at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on February 13.

Burgess is back in rugby league. Credit: PA

He is joined by brother Tom, former St Helens forward James Graham and Halifax-born stand-off Gareth Widdop.

Cameron Smith will captain the side while Johnathan Thurston will lead the Indigenous team, who are aiming to win the annual pre-season fixture for the third time in a row.

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Rugby League Test: England 2-9 New Zealand

England (white shirts) huffed and puffed but couldn't score a try. Credit: PA

New Zealand outplayed England at the Olympic Stadium to keep the three-match rugby league Test series alive with an attritional 9-2 victory.

England, who were favourites to secure a series-clinching win after starting with a 26-12 triumph in Hull, defended heroically at times against their more enterprising opponents but were short of ideas in attack.

The Kiwis scored the only try through winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall two minutes into the second half and, although England thought they had drawn level with a try from James Graham controversially disallowed by the video referees, they could have no complaints about the final outcome.

Rugby League referee dies aged 26

Chris Leatherbarrow. Credit: PA

The Rugby Football League has announced the death of referee Chris Leatherbarrow.

The 26-year-old from St Helens had progressed through the ranks to become a Super League official. No details have been given about the cause of death.

In a short statement, RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: "We are all truly shocked and saddened by the news of Chris Leatherbarrow's untimely death.

"This is a dreadful tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with Chris' family, friends and colleagues at this terrible time."

Fellow referee Richard Silverwood led the tributes on Twitter, saying: "Truly gutted. I'll never forget the week we had on our pre-season camp to Lanzarote. Gone too soon. RIP Chris x."

Leatherbarrow, who leaves behind a young daughter, was also hailed by another referee, Robert Hicks, who wrote: "Gone too early my friend. Thinking of friends, family and especially your princess Daisy. RIP Chris Leatherbarrow your fun and smile will be missed."

Rugby League star gets NFL gig

Hayne has made the San Francisco 49ers' roster. Credit: PA

Former Australia rugby league star Jarryd Hayne has realised his dream of winning a place on the San Francisco 49ers' NFL roster.

Hayne beat out practice-squad player Kendall Gaskins for a spot in the running back rotation as the Niners cut 14 players to bring their squad down to the 53-man limit. Another back, Kendall Hunter, was placed on injured reserve.

"I am over the moon," Hayne told 49ers.com. "I'm blessed and honoured to be a part of the 49ers franchise.

"I wanted to take a risk, and I wanted to put myself out there. This whole journey, I've never felt so alive."

Regarding the wait to hear from coach Jim Tomsula, he said: "It was the most nervous I've been in a while. It was more trying to get confirmation than anything. And then it was a sigh of relief."

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