Dual code international John Bentley believes Kevin Sinfield will make a success of his switch to Rugby Union with Yorkshire Carnegie ahead of his Greene King IPA Championship debut this Friday against London Welsh at Headingley Carnegie.
British Lion John Bentley switched codes in 1988 to join Leeds Rugby League before returning to Union when the game went professional in 1995. He believes the former Leeds Rhinos skipper will have an impact on his new club but says Sinfield will know it will take time to adapt to the nuances of the fifteen man game.
He commented, “I think Kevin will have a positive impact on Yorkshire Carnegie and his ability to control a game, even though he has come across from Rugby League, is impressive. He will find it difficult with two additional players on the field, particularly the angles they come at you from when defending; that is something that will initially be totally alien to him. The key ingredient for all cross code converts is dealing with the contact area. Rugby League is extremely fast and confrontational but when you get tackled the game stops momentarily and restarts very quickly whereas in Rugby Union when you get tackled the game actually commences.”
Sinfield has made two appearances for Yorkshire Carnegie in the British & Irish Cup, coming on against the Ospreys Premiership Select a fortnight ago before playing eighty minutes at fly half at Kinsale against Munster A on Friday night. Bentley believes being in that central position will bring certain challenges for Sinfield. He added, “Fly half is pivotal to everything else that happens in the team and it is not an easy position to play. He has the defender in front of him but also a number seven whose primary role is to get to him and destroy him and Kevin will have to deal with that. We as a team should benefit from his tactical kicking and awareness, which is second to none.”
Following the fall out from Sam Burgess’ recent departure from Bath Rugby, some have suggested the spotlight will be on Sinfield even more. However, Bentley believes Sinfield’s motivations for switching codes are different from other, more high profile, moves in recent years and that could be crucial to the fly half’s ability to succeed. He added, “The eyes of the world are not on him but there is a lot of interest in how he is going to adapt and what sort of impact he is going to make. He has come to the game to fulfil an unanswered person challenge having achieved everything he can in Rugby League, he has watched the game over the years and he now has the opportunity to answer the question, ‘can he?’ which is great and shows the personal motivation he has to be successful.”