KEVIN SINFIELD believes England – and Great Britain – have finally cracked their half-back conundrum to the extent it is now a “real strength”.
The RFL rugby director was speaking as the national sides trained at Manchester Institute of Health and Performance yesterday ahead of their respective games this autumn.
England fly to Sydney for the World Cup Nines on Saturday and the Great Britain squad for the tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea is named Monday.
During the summer era, for long periods they have struggled to find creative combinations for the biggest challenges with loose forwards Andy Farrell and Paul Sculthorpe, for instance, often switched into the halves.
However, England/Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett now seems to have a plethora of talent at his disposal.
Wigan’s George Williams and St George-Illawarra’s Gareth Widdop have already been included in the Lions squad along with uncapped Castleford Tigers youngster Jake Trueman.
For years our competition has probably scratched its head when it’s looked at international teams and the half-back combinations we’ve had. But there is now some real depth.Kevin Sinfield
But newly-crowned Man of Steel Jackson Hastings and fellow Australian-born half-back Blake Austin are challenging, too.
St Helens’ Jonny Lomax is almost certain to be selected and the duo that got England to the 2017 World Cup final – Luke Gale and Kevin Brown – have not even been considered due to injury,
Sinfield said: “It’s great. We have a real depth now. You throw the two in this year who put their hand up – Blake and Jackson – and you add in what we’ve already got, I think it’s a real strength now.
“For years our competition has probably scratched its head when it’s looked at international teams and the half-back combinations we’ve had. But there is now some real depth.”
Sinfield confirmed Hastings is in contention after belatedly proving his eligibility.
The Salford half-back was born in Australia but, like Austin, has an English grandparent and lodged papers to prove his qualification a week ago.
“We’d have liked to have it all confirmed a little bit sooner, especially when you consider how quick Blake was,” Sinfield said.
“But we understand where Jackson was at and now he’s in contention like everybody else.”
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“It’s a shame he’s missed some of the sessions we ran throughout the year, albeit the majority have been England sessions.
“But we ran a GB session in September. It’d have been great to have him there.
“Having said that, from my experience of spending a bit of time with him, he’s a quite a sociable lad anyway who will fit into most dressing rooms so we’ll see what happens.”