Kevin Sinfield to step away from England set-up after summer tour

By Sports Desk January 04, 2024

Kevin Sinfield will step down as Steve Borthwick’s England number two after the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

Sinfield has overseen the defence since his appointment by Borthwick in December 2022, but in the wake of the recent World Cup in France the former Leeds rugby league great has decided to move on.

The 43-year-old will remain in place for the Six Nations and the three Tests arranged for June and July, but in a new role overseeing skills and kicking with the incoming Felix Jones taking charge of the defence.

Borthwick declined to disclose any details over Sinfield’s future plans in the first backroom reshuffle of his year-long reign.

“Kev made the decision over what he wanted to do,” Borthwick said. “At the end of the World Cup, there was space for every member of the management to reflect as we look ahead to the next World Cup cycle.

“After a big tournament like the World Cup, every member of the management team needed the opportunity to relax, decompress, reflect and spend some time with friends and family.

“A couple of weeks later, Kev and I met and he gave me his decision. Kev’s decided that longer-term he’s going to head in a different direction away from the England rugby team.

“Ahead of the autumn series, Kev will not work with the team then, he will move away from the team and in a different direction.”

England endured a challenging Six Nations with the lowest ebb being a record defeat at Twickenham in March, with France breaching Sinfield’s defence seven times in a 53-10 rout.

There were highs and lows during the World Cup warm-up matches and the tournament itself, and England’s defence was its best during the agonising 16-15 World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa, leaking only one try to the eventual champions.

“I’m just grateful that’s he added so much value over these 12 months and that he’s going to stay with the team for the Six Nations and the summer tour,” said Borthwick, who had also appointed Sinfield to his Leicester managed team.

“Kev’s role and what he’s added as we’ve reset the team, you can’t overstate the value he’s brought, what he’s done and the relationships he’s built.

“I’ve changed his role to skills and he will be working specifically on catch-pass skills with the kickers and goalkickers, which he does so very well.”

Former Ireland international Jones takes responsibility for the defence after being recruited from South Africa, having contributed to their triumphant back-to-back World Cup campaigns.

Andrew Strawbridge, New Zealand’s skills coach at France 2023, has been appointed as a consultant for the opening four weeks of the Six Nations.

“If you look at our coaching team now, you’ve got a lot of knowledge of the Premiership, people who coached in the Premiership less than 12 months ago,” Borthwick said.

“Richard Wigglesworth was playing in the Premiership just over a year ago. We’ve got a lot of knowledge of the Premiership and of European rugby.

“Felix has knowledge of the Irish system and the South African system. Andrew joining is brings us the knowledge he has of New Zealand and Super Rugby.

“That’s an exciting blend of coaches and knowledge that we’ve brought together.”

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