MASTERING rugby union is Kevin Sinfield’s new – and toughest – challenge.
After being at the heart of the most successful period in Leeds Rhinos’ history and fresh from their greatest season, Sinfield, aged 35, has stepped onto a new path in the 15-a-side game.
Now in their fifth successive season outside the top flight, Yorkshire Carnegie hope Sinfield will prove to be the final piece in a promotion-winning jigsaw.
The rugby league legend admits he is keen to test himself at union’s highest level, but conceded it will be one of his biggest achievements if he can get to grips with his new code and help Carnegie back into the big time.
“I think it is,” Sinfield conceded, when asked if crossing codes so late in his career is one of the toughest challenges he has taken on.
“Probably because of the enormity of entering a new dressing room and trying to learn a new sport, but it is the reason I came.
“I have got some aims and objectives I’d like to achieve here, but first and foremost I need to earn the respect and trust of the lads.
“Getting promotion to the Premiership would be huge.
“The Championship is similar to the Championship in football, it is a very difficult league to get out of. Bristol being as strong as they are makes it very, very tough, but the aim is to play in the Premiership.
“The club has said that and it’s where every player wants to play. I want to test myself against the best at some stage and I think Carnegie’s chances [of promotion] are very good.
“We are in a great position, all the ingredients of a successful team are in place.”
Sinfield officially joined Carnegie, who visit Bedford in the Championship today, on November 1 and has completed his first full week of training.
“It has been great,” said the former Leeds and England captain, who is the third-highest points scorer in his former code’s history.
“It has been very enjoyable and everything I thought the challenge would be.”
Sinfield was a one-club man throughout his league career, joining Leeds as schoolboy and making his debut, aged 16, in 1997.
Despite vast experience, including 521 appearances, seven Super League titles and almost 4,000 points for Leeds, he admitted walking into the Carnegie changing room for the first time was a nerve-racking experience.
“You are never quite sure whether you are going to be accepted or what it is going to be like, but the lads have been brilliant,” he said.
“They have made me feel so welcome from the start and they have spent a lot of time with me, helping me along and giving me little tips.
“That has been fantastic and the environment is very similar, so going about my day-to-day business has been pretty good and I have enjoyed the rugby.
“Trying to build some of those friendships you take on to the field and building trust takes a period of time, so I have been on with that.
“Also I have been trying to learn the game and learn the calls.
“Playing fly-half, it is similar to my role in league, the game-management stuff and getting the team around the field.
“That comes with experience and playing. Coming in and trying to pick that up very quickly has been tough.
“It is very different, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun and you aren’t going to make a success of it. It has been very challenging and very different, but hopefully it won’t be too long before I get to have a run.”
Sinfield will travel with the squad as 23rd man, Redpath having made four changes to his side.
Christian Georgiou returns on the wing for David Doherty.
In the forwards Jack Walker starts at hooker while Matt Smith comes into the second row. Finally, England Under-20 international Josh Bainbridge is selected at openside flanker.
The three players they replace, Phil Nilsen, Tom Ryder and Jack Barnard, are all among the replacements today.