Kevin Sinfield will lead England in the 2014 Four Nations Series as long as his form warrants his selection in the squad, head coach Steve McNamara has confirmed.
The long-serving Leeds star, who turns 34 before the end of the season, recently announced that he wants to prolong his international career and yesterday McNamara said the goalkicking stand-off remains firmly in his plans.
McNamara, who has reverted to part-time status following his move to Australia to work as an assistant coach with Sydney Roosters, went further by revealing he intends to retain the nucleus of the squad that went within 20 seconds of reaching the 2013 World Cup final. With no mid-season fixture, England’s next match is expected to be against Samoa or Fiji in the opening round of the Four Nations Series in Auckland on the weekend of October 25 and McNamara, whose contract has been extended by 12 months, has his sights set on silverware.
“When we got back from the semi-final at Wembley, we had some decisions to make about how we want to push onto the next stage and the next stage is a Four Nations in Australia,” McNamara said.
“Not everybody in that group will be available for the next World Cup in four years’ time but everyone of them will be available in my opinion for the Four Nations.
“It’s up to their form throughout the season but hopefully we can keep the group as close as we possibly can together and make some really strong additions from some young quality players in the English Super League and have a real crack at the Four Nations.
“In the past we were talking about four-year cycles but post-World Cup I think we need to look at a one-year attack on this tournament as opposed to looking too far to the next World Cup.
“We need to try to knock a tournament off and, if we can do that in Australia and New Zealand, it could probably be as big, if not bigger, an achievement as winning the World Cup.”
Sam Burgess, who is expected to switch to rugby union before the Four Nations, had been seen as a potential England captain but Sinfield, who succeeded his Leeds team-mate Jamie Peacock as national captain in the summer of 2012, retains the backing of his coach.
“I have a lot of admiration for how he represented his country, both as a player and a captain, in the World Cup,” McNamara said.
“Kevin is an outstanding professional and a great bloke and, if he gets picked, he will be captain.
“He’s a great example for everybody. He didn’t establish himself as an international player until he was 29 and he spent years playing bit parts in the team and being left out. It’s a great lesson for everybody, that if you stick with it, your rewards will come.”
Meanwhile, McNamara has defended his actions in clamping down on disciplinary breaches both in the build-up and during the World Cup.
He sensationally axed Gareth Hock before the tournament began, left out James Graham for the opening game and sent Zak Hardaker home before the knockout stages for breaches of team discipline.
Hock this week accused McNamara of “cowardice” for informing of his punishment by telephone, but McNamara said: “I had some tough decisions to make and I feel comfortable with them. Any level of punishment I feel was completely justified.
“I will always have the best interests of the players at heart.”