腾博会官网:'I'd have loved this': Kevin Sinfield on England v New Zealand in Denver

时间:2019-09-15 责任编辑:西门厍驮 来源:腾博会官网 - 点此进入√ 点击:92 次

Kevin Sinfield had a remarkable playing career. He captained Leeds to seven titles, played 26 times for England and retired as the highest points-scorer for both his club and country. In the two years since his retirement, he has been equally busy, running the London Marathon, attending the Royal Wedding and now overseeing the national team’s programme as the RFL director of rugby. England start preparations for the 2021 World Cup – which they will host – with a ground-breaking Test against New Zealand in Denver on Saturday night, which will be broadcast live on BBC2.

The clubs and players’ association made a huge fuss over the Denver Test, citing concerns over insurance and playing at altitude. Will you have a sense of relief when the game kicks off?

“Honestly, no I won’t. We anticipated some problems and when you have a sport where there’s both club and country involved, there’s always conflict. At times it’s been tough but what ourselves and New Zealand have put together is pretty good. I’d have loved to have played in this myself. The true test for us is to ask our staff, with a lot of former players in there, ‘Would you want to play in this game and be part of this Test match?’ We all know the answer. We are trying to make it as special as possible for the lads. I’m really excited about seeing us play. There’s some new lads in the squad and rightly so. They deserve to be.”

This is the start of a three-year deal with the events team Moore Sports International. Do you expect to be back in Denver in June 2019?

“At the minute I don’t have any expectation. I’m delighted this first one has got off the ground and the players have the opportunity to go to America to play rugby league. America deserves to have two of the best teams in the world coming to play on their soil, especially with 2025 [when the World Cup will be hosted by USA and Canada] coming down the track. I don’t know what the future will bring but I do know Denver is really important to us. Having a meaningful test match gives these players a chance to experience a different culture. The whole experience will be very positive for all the players.”

What would you have done if this game had not gone ahead?

“There would have been a balancing act. We would have put our heads together and put something in place. What’s important is that we give this group meaningful fixtures as we aim to win the World Cup in 2021 – as we do with the women’s team and the wheelchair team. All three teams need fixtures where they are challenged and exposed to different playing styles. ‘Meaningful’ is the word. That doesn’t mean the NRL players have to be here for every game. We’ll see what happens in the future.”

England players celebrate after beating Tonga to reach the World Cup final in 2017. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Although England will only play five Tests this year, will tour the Pacific in the autumn

“For some of the younger players, who maybe haven’t worn the England jersey before, we need to expose them to the understanding what that’s all about. Everybody’s different: some will swim straight away; some will struggle at first. We understand that. But the more opportunities we can give them, the better.”

Do you imagine looking at rugby league in the US in 2025 and thinking England played a part in changing the game forever?

“I hope so, but that isn’t at the front of my mind. My job is to make sure this team performs like it can and to provide the environment for them to be the best version of themselves. Ultimately, we have a great coach in Wayne Bennett, we truly believe in the staff, and we’ve got to get this right. But bigger picture? Absolutely. We need to grow the sport and having the opportunity to take it to a different continent and to a city like Denver is pretty special.”

England’s rugby league team could have something of a profile in the USA and Canada before the World Cup in 2025, then.

“It will be interesting to see what legacy we leave on the back of this game and how the momentum can shift in the American public getting behind the game. But we’ve got to get this game right first and foremost. Ourselves and New Zealand have worked as hard as we can with the NRL and Super League clubs.”

Is there a job to entertain a new public? In 2015, England and New Zealand missed a huge opportunity to do that with that drab game at London’s Olympic Stadium.

“I understand that point fully but the difficulty that day was the conditions. It bounced it down and made it impossible to play a flowing game. Whatever sport you play, you are dictated to by the conditions. Hopefully in Denver we will get some sunshine and be allowed to play our British game and allow the Kiwis to play theirs too, so both teams can go out and show what we can do. I’m sure the Americans are in for a real treat.”

New Zealand beat England 9-2 when the teams met at the Olympic Stadium in London in 2015. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

What do you get from the monthly team meetings England have?

“Fundamentally the get-togethers are about having the players spend some time together. We don’t get to do that very often. In the calendar this year we only have five international games so we’d be pretty naive to think the lads can just turn up and get on a plane and be a team. A lot of it is just keeping them together and having a chat. We give them another opportunity to wear the badge and respect it and know what they represent and what it’s about. It’s also a chance for us to do some face-to-face stuff and not just send another email.”

Was that missing when you were playing? Would it have made a difference?

“We did have something like this in the last couple of years. Steve McNamara brought this in. I understand the value of it. It makes a huge difference. There’s a mixture of all the clubs at the table and that’s Team England. That shows how far we’ve come. You can put different lads together in a room and they chat together and get to know each other’s wives’ names, kids’ names etc. They have to trust each other and have ultra-honesty with each other. Those things just don’t happen overnight, whatever walk of life you’re in – you’ve got to work at them. These guys have shown a real commitment to the programme.”

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