The real story behind Bennett-Meninga feud

Wayne Bennett was furious when he missed out on the vacant Kangaroos job, but it wasn't because Mal Meninga got the nod.

 

According to the England coach, it was the process that left him seething.

Bennett and Meninga were once great friends, but that all changed last year when the pair engaged in a public slanging match over the Aussie coaching position.

MAL'S WARNING: Meninga says England think Aussies are vulnerable

"I was pretty disappointed with the process," Bennett told 7News on Thursday.

7News can reveal Bennett was formally interviewed for the position and recommended ahead of fellow candidates Craig Bellamy and Des Hasler.

Bennett and Meninga. Image: Getty

Bennett looked set to win the job until ARL Chairman John Grant spoke with Meninga behind closed doors.

"It wasn't about Mal or anybody," Bennett said. "It was all about the process."

"Mal thought I was having a shot at him but I wasn't."

Watch the full story above, featuring interviews with Bennett and Meninga.

Bennett says he's got the talent in his team to upset Australia in the World Cup opener provided his players handle the pressure.

The old foes meet at Melbourne's AAMI Park on Friday night with the defending champion Kangaroos the raging favourites after winning their past 10 Tests against England or a Great Britain side.

But Bennett says he's seen plenty of growth in his team since last year's Tri-Nations campaign, which was his first big tournament at the helm.

"We're much further ahead than that," Bennett said. "We've had 12 months together so we all know each other.

"There's a much better acceptance and understanding of what we need to do."

England boast some form players including St George Illawarra playmaker Gareth Widdop, Super League's Man of Steel award winner halfback Luke Gale, as well giant Leeds winger Ryan Hall, who is the most prolific international tryscorer in the tournament.

Bennett believed his team matched up well but in the past had let themselves down with unforced errors which cancelled out their good work.

"The thing for us will be whether we make unforced errors under pressure, which we did last time we played them - there's nothing else we have to fear.

"We match them in a lot of areas and if we can match them in the areas of discipline and unforced errors, that will be our best chance of doing anything."

While satisfied with their preparation, Bennett didn't expect his team to be at their best on Friday night but also didn't think Australia would be.

"It's about where we are in six weeks time, we want to be in that final and they do too," he said.

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with AAP

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