Sinfield calls for game to come together for the good of clubs and country

Leeds Rhinos Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield has called for Rugby League to find a way forward that can support the ambitions of the clubs and the national team ahead of this Friday’s mid-season international between England and the Combined Nations All Stars at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington. 

With a full round of Betfred Super League games taking place this weekend, it means the Rhinos could be without five players for their clash with Salford, scheduled on the same night as Shaun Wane’s England begin their World Cup 2021 preparations. 

Sinfield, who led the England performance department when the national side reached the World Cup Final last time around in 2017 in Australia, says he hoped a more joined up approach can be agreed in the long term and, more immediately, that common sense will prevail this weekend. 

He commented, “First and foremost, as a club we support international Rugby League and always have done. During my playing career, I knew I always had the full support of the club to go away for mid-season internationals and camps even if that meant missing games for the Rhinos. Rugby League has a massive opportunity to grow our appeal in this country through the international game especially with the biggest ever World Cup coming to our shores this Autumn with a joint mens, womens and wheelchair tournament. 

“However, these are extra ordinary times and I think there needs to be a degree of common sense to make sure that everyone can achieve the outcome they want. We have had eight players who last week tested positive for Covid 19. The RFL guidelines strictly control how each of those players can become available to play, as a club or the individual players themselves, have no control over this to make the phased return shorter, as it should be. 

“Two of the eight will be cleared next week, if they show no side effects, another five would only be available if this week’s game was played on Sunday. Without the Covid outbreak last week, we were prepared to play this Friday as scheduled at Salford, even without our five ‘international’ call ups. Unfortunately, as the away club we have had no control over when this fixture was allowed to be played, perhaps this is something Super League and the RFL can work closer on if mid-season internationals are to continue. 

“The RFL regulations allow a team to ask for a postponement if four or more players are called up for international matches. We do not want to add another re-arranged fixture to the calendar and add more burden to the players of both clubs in an already compacted season and would prefer to move the fixture to Sunday and have made that clear to the RFL. I have a great deal of sympathy with Salford, who have done a so much work to make sure that fans can be back inside the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday and, through no fault of their own, have a question mark hanging over the fixture. Ourselves and Salford play our next Super League fixture on Thursday so there is an added pressure there too however I sincerely hope that an agreement can be made that means this fixture can still go ahead this weekend,” added Sinfield.