FORMER England captain Kevin Sinfield admits it would be “huge” for the sport in this country if the national side can clinch a series win over world No 1 team New Zealand.
The ex-Leeds Rhinos stand-off, who led his country from 2012 to 2014, will be on the sidelines watching new club Yorkshire Carnegie at Bedford this afternoon when England tackle the Kiwis at London’s Olympic Stadium.
But his thoughts will stray to his former colleagues as they seek to go 2-0 up in the series after Sunday’s 26-12 first Test win at Hull FC.
“I know New Zealand have come over with a weakened side, but you can only play what’s put in front of you,” said Sinfield, who was part of the last side to win a series with Great Britain against the Kiwis, eight years ago.
“I thought England did a pretty good job last Sunday.
“It is important rugby league still has an international presence in this country.
“It has been a couple of years since the last time, so to make a success of it would be great for the sport.”
Sinfield captained England as they suffered an agonising last-minute loss in the 2013 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, the last of his 26 caps.
On the first Test win, he said: “I thought England played very well, especially in the second half. They were dominant and I think Steve Mac (McNamara, the England coach) has done a great job.
“Having Jimmy (Lowes, McNamara’s assistant) back involved is fantastic and it’s great to see the Rhinos boys doing well.
“I think it will be a great series for England.
“Both teams are going to improve this week, but I think the way England played that second half, they will be too strong.”
This was their first Test win over the Kiwis in four years and Sinfield reckons it sets them up to lift the Baskerville Shield this afternoon – even before the sold-out final Test at Wigan next Saturday.
Today will see the first game of rugby league held at the famous Olympic Stadium.
RFL officials hope to see the ground near to its 49,500 capacity.