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Kevin Sinfield: No regrets over union switch but time is right to hang up boots

Published 27/04/2016

Kevin Sinfield is bringing his illustrious career to an end
Kevin Sinfield is bringing his illustrious career to an end

Kevin Sinfield will end his brief spell in rugby union with no regrets but accepts it is simply time to hang up the boots.

The former Leeds and England rugby league captain, who turns 36 in September, switched codes with the Rhinos' sister club Yorkshire Carnegie last November and had another 12 months left on his contract.

However, Sinfield announced at a press conference at Headingley on Wednesday his decision to cut short his stay in the 15-man code and retire for good at the end of the Greene King IPA Championship promotion play-offs in May.

"I'm really pleased I went and had a bash at rugby union," he said. "Bryan (Redpath) and all the players have been fantastic and I really enjoyed the challenge.

"It was originally an 18-month deal but, having done 18 months of rugby straight, I feel now is right time to step back and I think it's worth saying that next four weeks could be really special - we've got a big game this weekend and after this my focus is on the game on Sunday.

"It was a huge temptation to stay on and anyone who's had to make this decision to retire from professional sport will know it's a difficult one.

"There's a lot of ifs, buts and maybes and I hope I can walk away from Carnegie knowing we've done a great job and we get promotion.

"I'd rather go too early and it be on my terms than stay on and play too long. I've been fortunate to play for 20 years and it's something I feel very lucky about. To finish the game healthy - touch wood - means there's things I want to achieve outside of rugby."

Sinfield, the most successful captain in the Rhinos' history, ruled out a coaching job and is expected to follow his former Leeds team-mate Jamie Peacock - now football manager at Hull KR - into sports management, although he says he has not yet made a decision.

"I've no plans to put the boots back on after this and there's no offer to coach," he said.

"A number of opportunities have become available to me for life after rugby and I need to make the right decision for me and my family.

"I'll take some time out and assess a route forward for myself. I'd love to stay in sport and stay in rugby but I went back and got a Masters from Leeds Beckett University but it's important for me to go and get some other experience from businesses and get myself ready for what's next.

"I have always said that some day I will need to get a proper job, and that day has now come."

Despite missing the start of the season, Sinfield is the leading scorer for Carnegie with 177 points in his 14 appearances so far. He helped the team reach the final of the B&I Cup and a third-place finish in the Greene King IPA Championship.

Carnegie will play Doncaster in a two-legged semi-final, with the aggregate winners progressing to the two-legged final to contest the right for promotion to the Aviva Premiership.

Sinfield will be hoping to bow out of rugby union on a high, just as he did in rugby league, in which he left an indelible mark after guiding the Rhinos to a domestic treble with a seventh Grand Final triumph at Old Trafford in October.

In his glittering 19-season professional career in rugby league, Sinfield led Leeds to seven Grand Final victories, back-to-back Challenge Cup triumphs and three World Club Challenge successes.

He scored 3,967 points from 521 appearances for Leeds and won 40 caps for England and Great Britain, captaining his country in the 2013 World Cup, while his career total of 4,231 points, from 569 matches, put him third in the all-time list, behind Neil Fox and Jim Sullivan.

Sinfield, who won the 2012 Golden Boot - the award for the world's best rugby league player - remains England's highest points scorer and currently holds the Super League records for most appearances, goals and points.

He was awarded an MBE in the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours and was runner-up to Andy Murray in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards last December.

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