KEvin Sinfield has just completed the most intensive season of his career yet admits never feeling fresher heading into an international competition.
Player burn-out is often cited as a reason behind England or Great Britain’s continued failure when it comes to tournaments such as the Gillette Four Nations which begins tonight; too many games compared to their rivals inevitably leaves them drained.
Leeds Rhinos’ Grand Final winning captain Sinfield has now amassed almost 40 matches this term, ever-present for his club in a campaign where they also reached Wembley and he played a full 80 minutes in most.
But, ahead of tomorrow’s opener against Wales, the 31-year-old admitted: “Friday (against France) was as good as I’ve felt in a game physically and that’s a big part of it.
“If mentally you’re fresh and physically you feel good, hopefully you can perform to your best, which is what all of us need to do.
“Coming into this, and I’ve played 38 games now, I feel really good. It’s funny as midway through the year I felt a bit jaded but coming to the back end when we started to hit some form, it felt like the 20 games to that had been a pre-season.
“It felt the season started for me with about six or eight weeks to go, which sounds funny as we play that many games.
“But the way we started to play and the momentum we built just freshened everybody up.
“And now, being here (England’s training base at Loughborough University) with the advice we’re getting and the conditioning team has been really smart.”
Sinfield is relishing the chance to return to the international fray after missing last year’s tournament due to injury, perhaps another reason for his current increased freshness.
He will line up alongside Man of Steel Rangi Chase again tomorrow as the pair continue their new-formed half-back partnership.
Sinfield admitted he voted for St Helens hooker James Roby in the prestigious award rather than the Castleford star but was suitably impressed when linking with him against France.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “Things have gone really well in training and to get a chance to go on the field and put it together was great. I think we complement each other pretty well.
“Rangi can do things that not many in the game can do individually and for me to be able to control the team and let him be a free spirit will work pretty well.
“Then if you get Sam (Tomkins) with the ball in his hands, doing the stuff he does, we can combine really well together.”
Meanwhile, Sinfield has also been re-united with his former Leeds coach Daryl Powell – the Featherstone Rovers chief who is now England’s new assistant.
“I enjoyed working with him in 2002 and 2003 – he was the guy that made me captain at Leeds, so I owe him a great deal,” he said.
“He’s a fantastic coach now and I’m sure it won’t be long until he gets one of the top jobs in Super League again as he’s done a terrific job, as has Jimmy Lowes.”