THE advert that has dropped through Leeds Rhinos fans’ letterboxes in recent days reads: “Same Pitch. Different Battle.”
It is emblazoned on an image of their erstwhile captain Kevin Sinfield walking out at Headingley, readied for action but, of course, now in the colours of Yorkshire Carnegie.
It is a striking combination and, though describing tonight’s fixture as his “first home game” isn’t technically correct – Sinfield played 15 minutes there against an Ospreys Select in the British & Irish Cup less than a fortnight ago – the match with London Welsh is his first Championship encounter since switching codes.
This is Carnegie’s chance to really tap into the Rhinos market; supporters of the Super League champions will save £5 per ticket by quoting the flier reference and there is genuine hope a decent number of their regular 10,000 fans will arrive to swell the crowd of the sister union club that has forever lived in its shadow.
For those that do attend, they are guaranteed to see plenty of the former England captain given Sinfield, whose last act with Leeds was to lift the Super League trophy at Old Trafford for a seventh time last month.
He he has shown enough in his two outings so far – that Ospreys cameo and a full 80 minutes during last week’s 14-9 B&I Cup loss at Munster A– to warrant a starting spot in the pivotal fly-half role against an experienced side that were relegated from the top-flight last season.
Head coach Bryan Redpath, therefore, certainly believes the 35-year-old can steer his side to another Championship win which could see them replace Bristol as competition leaders.
“It will definitely be great if there is some crossover (of fans),” admitted Sinfield.
“With union being a predominantly winter sport, it does give league fans at the end of their season a chance to come out and watch a bit of rugby.
“I know it’s very, very different to rugby league – you can’t compare the two – but you can appreciate both. Hopefully a few will come down, be a little inquisitive as to what it’s all about and we give them something to like and don’t disappoint.”
For those fearing they will only be met by a game full of relentless kicking or bogged down by continual set-piece, they could be pleasantly surprised; this Carnegie side love to express themselves more adventurously.
“It was nice to join the squad aware that they want to play good rugby and throw the ball around,” admitted Sinfield, as the hosts prepare for a struggling Welsh team that has lost five of its nine Championship games since demotion.
“There’s some really talented players and the coaches deserve credit as they encourage an attacking style and don’t put any restrictions on how we should play. That’s really refreshing.”
On his own development, Sinfield added: “With every session I’ve improved, in building the trust and honesty you have with your colleagues but also my game understanding.
“Having played a full 80 minutes against a decent Munster side who had one or two drop down from their first team, there’s certainly things I know I can get better at.
“But I’m looking forward to Friday’s challenge. We certainly won’t under-estimate Welsh.
“They were in the Premiership last year, are a huge set and will cause us some problems but we’ve trained well and we will be ready for this.”