sport

Sinfield: I won't ease up

Newly-appointed captain Kevin Sinfield says he'll never take his England place for granted as he prepares to lead the team for the first time.

The inspirational Leeds skipper was an obvious choice to succeed his Rhinos team-mate Jamie Peacock as captain of the national team but, on the eve of Saturday's game against Wales in Wrexham, he says his appointment does not make him an automatic selection.

"I never thought that at Leeds either," Sinfield said. "I never take my place for granted. I never rest on my laurels. The focus for me is on playing well.

"I think there are a number of leaders in the team and any one of them is capable of stepping in and being captain at some stage.

"I know I've got to fight for my spot like everybody else."

The 32-year-old Sinfield wore the number six for England in seven consecutive appearances up to being rested for the second of this summer's Exiles games and was a shoe-in for the spot after another hugely-impressive season with his club.

But he could face renewed competition in the build-up to the 2013 World Cup, most notably from Melbourne Storm's Halifax-born stand-off Gareth Widdop, who played a key role in his club's Grand-Final triumph but has been ruled out of England's autumn internationals through injury.

With England's other Australia-based players James Graham, Sam Burgess and Jack Reed also sidelined, along with Super League-based regulars Ben Westwood, Rangi Chase and Eorl Crabtree, Sinfield will be among a host of players aiming to steal a march during the autumn internationals.

"This competition is very important for us," Sinfield added. "If you look at the players who aren't in the squad through suspension or injuries or whatever reason, the talent we've got available now is massively competitive.

"For me to make sure I'm involved in future series and World Cups, I need to play well."

England head coach Steve McNamara admits Sinfield was a natural successor to Peacock, who retired from the international game after the opening Exiles fixture in June.

"I'm sure he's going to be extremely proud when he leads the team out for the first time," McNamara said. "He's a great example for everybody involved.

"If every sportsman had the same application, we would certainly improve out of sight as a nation."

England, who are normally underdogs at this time of the year, will don the mantle of firm favourites.

With Australia and New Zealand opting out of the Four Nations Series in order to give their players better preparation for World Cup year, Wales and France are providing the opposition for McNamara's men.

The Welsh, who lost 20-6 to France in the opening fixture in Lens last Saturday, are looking for their first win over England for 17 years.

They have lost eight consecutive times to England since their 18-16 victory in the 1995 European Championship at Cardiff's Ninian Park.