Six Nations: Kevin Sinfield urges England to develop new ‘joy of winning’

Six Nations: Kevin Sinfield urges England to develop new ‘joy of winning’

Kevin Sinfield will challenge England to develop a new love for winning rather than latch onto any tribalistic Six Nations hate.

Rugby league great Sinfield is confident he understands the Six Nations fervour, especially the general disdain for England that can be happily pantomime in some quarters and starkly contemptuous in others.

The former Leeds Rhinos star admitted his time with the late Doddie Weir, due to his best friend Rob Burrow’s own battle with motor neurone disease has offered new insight into the Six Nations rivals’ view of England.

Sinfield sees himself as the “joy of winning” yin to new England boss Steve Borthwick’s “fear of losing” yang, with the two motivations offering vital coaching balance.

England will host Scotland on February 4, with Sinfield determined that Borthwick’s first Test at the helm will be underpinned by the full range of drivers, from obvious to subtle.

“I love this competition and I always have,” said England's new defence coach. “I’ve always been a rugby union fan, I love the sport, and there’s nothing better than being sat at home on a weekend watching the games. I’ve been here at Twickenham a number of times to watch Six Nations games as well.

Kevin Sinfield followed Steve Borthwick from Leicester Tigers to England as defence coach (PA)
Kevin Sinfield followed Steve Borthwick from Leicester Tigers to England as defence coach (PA)

“As people probably know I spent some time with some Scottish internationals over the last couple of years through some tragic circumstances and it’s not lost on me how much there’s a dislike for England. I understand that. And I understand that’s quite common across the other nations as well.

“That’s powerful. But if we think that we’re going to get a team ready to play because the opposition doesn’t like us – I think motivations are much deeper and much more powerful than that. We want to win games because we want to represent our country the right way.

“We want the country to get behind us, we want to see Twickenham full of white shirts. I want supporters to understand that Steve’s boys Hunter and Chase are wearing England shirts and not Australia shirts, of their mum’s nationality.

“All of it is important, and if we’re going to get more kids playing our sport then it’s got to be much deeper than building a gameplan around teams hating us. We’re pretty different: Steve’s probably motivated by fear of losing, I’m motivated by joy of winning.

“So we dovetail pretty well, but I want the team to really, really enjoy putting on that white shirt and really enjoy tearing up trees for each other, and doing everything they can to ensure we send a load of people home happy after that first game.”

Captain Owen Farrell will be free to start the Six Nations after suspension for a high tackle. England’s new coaches will work hard on tackle height with the squad, with Sinfield insisting player welfare will be paramount under the new regime.

Farrell will go through World Rugby’s tackle school program to be free to start the Six Nations, with Saracens holding the relevant sessions. Sinfield ran Leicester’s World Rugby tackle education in his time at Welford Road, and is clear on how England must approach contact safety.

“The safety measures are the priority, but it’s also about the damage it does to the team,” said Sinfield. “In club rugby it’s really difficult to win with 14 men and Test rugby is a step up. We need all our players on the field at all times.

“You go through a series of drills, building them up so you almost replicate the problematic tackle. It’s about having an understanding as you work your way through the process: how you got there and how you’re going to try to avoid it.

“Both Steve and I fully support the safety measures in the sport. We understand that referees have to make decisions and hopefully we’ll give them less decisions to make about players in white shirts.”