Sinfield reflects on stunning year
Kevin Sinfield may have to pinch himself when he eventually takes stock of his amazing year but for now is focusing solely on leading England to silverware.by NRL
Kevin Sinfield may have to pinch himself when he eventually takes stock of his amazing year but for now is focusing solely on leading England to silverware.
Fresh from inspiring Leeds Rhinos to a stunning sixth Super League title with victory in the Grand Final earlier this month, Sinfield marked his first appearance as England captain with a second consecutive man-of-the-match award.
He will be aiming for a hat-trick when England meet France at Hull KR on Saturday in a dress rehearsal for the final eight days later.
The Rhinos stand-off's virtuoso performance in England's 80-12 rout of Wales last Saturday further demonstrated his arrival as one of the modern game's greatest players, but the man remains typically modest about his achievements.
"The last month of the season with Leeds and (England coach) Steve (McNamara) naming me as captain and going to South Africa to spend some time with the players has been one of the most special moments of my career," he said.
"I love being involved with the England squad. I love the way that Steve is driving it and it's a huge honour to be a part of it.
"I'd like to think in a few weeks' time when I have some down time that I'll be able to look back at 2012 with some fond memories and I'll probably have to pinch myself over how special it's been."
The 32-year-old Sinfield was the obvious choice to succeed his Leeds team-mate Jamie Peacock as captain of the national side, especially after cementing his place in the team over the last three years.
He traces the turning point of his international career back to 2009 when his old Leeds coach Tony Smith was in charge, with McNamara his assistant.
"It's been a bit of a roller-coaster," Sinfield said. "It probably wasn't until 2009 when we reached the Four Nations final and I played at hooker for the last three games that I actually felt comfortable and wanted in this environment.
"I was asked to play similarly to how I played at my club."
Initially finding his path into the national team blocked by Andy Farrell and Paul Sculthorpe, the one-time loose forward had to find a new role in order to make the big breakthrough but, even now, is not sure of his exact position.
"I don't really see me in any particular position," said Sinfield, who initially made the switch to the halves with his club due to injury.
"I sort of know what my qualities are and I know what my weaknesses are. I'm not going to say I can do what Sam (Tomkins) does or what Rangi (Chase) does. I haven't got lightning pace nor can I rip teams apart on my own but what I can do is get a team around the field.
"And, with the talent I've got around me with England, I know how and when to give them the ball, if that be playing as a seven, a six, a nine or 13 or whatever it may be. I believe that is my strength."
Sinfield got his first taste of captaincy with Lancashire Under-10s - "I think there were some arguments over whether it ought to be a Wigan or a Saints lad so they said we'll go with an Oldham kid instead" - and has been leading his club since the age of 22.
Although delighted to lead his country, Sinfield says the appointment was tinged with one regret.
"I've enjoyed captaincy the whole way through and to get the chance to do it at this level in this environment is a huge honour," he said.
"But a part of me still wishes JP was around. He had his own reasons for why he's not with us any more but I think we'll miss him in a lot of ways.
"He's very supportive of where we're going as a group. By all accounts he'll be involved with us next year in some role and I'm all for it.
"For what he's done for our sport and certainly for England rugby league, I'd like to think we'll start to reap the rewards."
Sinfield, who was inspired in his early career by a former Great Britain captain Ellery Hanley, is expected to lead England into the 2013 World Cup and intends to be around for some time yet.
"I've got an idea in my head about how long I'd like to play," he said. "As long as I'm enjoying it and as long as my standards don't drop and as long the coaching staff who I play for are happy where I'm at, I'll keep going.
"I think you play your best stuff when you're enjoying it and I'm certainly enjoying my rugby at the minute."
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