Sean O'Loughlin would have preferred English coach for England

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England captain O'Loughlin confident of Four Nations title
2016 Four Nations
Dates: Friday, 28 October to Sunday 20 November
Teams: England, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland
Coverage: Selected games live on BBC TV, radio and streamed online

England captain Sean O'Loughlin says he would have preferred an Englishman in charge of the national team, but is looking forward to working with Australian Wayne Bennett.

Bennett, 66, was appointed head coach in February, succeeding Steve McNamara.

"As a patriotic Englishman, you always want everything to be English and everyone involved to be from England," O'Loughlin, 33, told BBC Sport.

"But I think that sport has changed and it is not always about that now."

England face Australia, New Zealand and Scotland in this year's Four Nations, which will be broadcast on the BBC and conclude at Liverpool Football Club's Anfield stadium.

Bennett is the most successful coach in Australian rugby league history, with seven Grand Final wins.

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England beat NZ in thrilling decider

He has been given a two-year contract with England until the 2017 World Cup and will continue in his role as Brisbane Broncos boss.

"Wayne is someone who has a lot about him," added Wigan forward O'Loughlin. "You know what he has achieved in his career. When I first met him, I was impressed with his focus on the job and the preparations he wanted to do.

"Sometimes you introduce people in order to improve you and that is what the powers that be see Wayne doing.

"Whether we need an Aussie or Kiwi to do that, as long as it is pushing our sport forward, that is the main decision that comes into it."

Making up ground on the NRL

North Queensland Cowboys
NRL Grand final winners North Queensland Cowboys thrashed Super League champions Leeds Rhinos 38-4 in the World Club Challenge in February

During McNamara's five-and-a-half-year reign, England were runners-up in the 2011 Four Nations and also reached the semi-finals of the 2013 World Cup.

The former Bradford coach's last game in charge saw his side complete a 2-1 series win over New Zealand, the world's number one side.

Despite improvement on the international stage, Australian National Rugby League sides thrashed their Super League counterparts in all three games during the World Club Series earlier this year.

"Looking at the World Club Series games, you will see we haven't bridged the gap. But, with the number of top English players we have produced at international level, we are bridging the gap there," added O'Loughlin.

"We won the series against New Zealand last year, which was a massive step forward for us. We have teams who are more than capable of competing in the NRL. If Wigan went there, we would improve because of the strength of the competition.

"We may not win more games but it would improve our players massively. Coaches and players over here are always looking to get better and we keep trying to bridge the gap."

Return of the two Sams

Sam Tomkins and Sam Burgess
Sam Tomkins and Sam Burgess will be back in England shirts for the Four Nations looking to finally win a major international tournament

Full-back Sam Tomkins returned to England with Wigan Warriors after a two-year spell with New Zealand Warriors, but has been unable to play this season because of a long-term knee injury.

Forward Sam Burgess also returned to rugby league with the South Sydney Rabbitohs after a one-season spell with English rugby union side Bath.

"Just having a bloke like Tomkins back at the club is great," said O'Loughlin. "He has been good for the youngsters who have been playing in his position. He is always there to give his opinion at the club, he is a is positive influence.

"Burgess is a phenomenal player and it is great to have him back in an England jersey. He is is an inspirational player and does his job very well. He is very influential on the team and gets the best from the players around him.

"He is a good leader too. With him in the side, you have a better chance of winning."

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