Kevin Sinfield: Challenge Cup pressure is different this year

The pressure on Leeds to defend their Ladbrokes Challenge Cup crown is different to that felt by the Rhinos squad last year.

That is according to club legend and team captain Kevin Sinfield, who claims that much of the pressure ahead of last year’s showpiece came from the media.

Having lost six finals between 2000 and 2012, Leeds finally ended their 15-year wait to reclaim Rugby League’s top prize last year and while that win was a huge monkey off the players’ backs Sinfield says it wasn’t the players who put it there.

“It’s a different pressure this year. The media created a monkey for our backs but internally we were very relaxed and focused,” he told Ladbrokes News.

“There is always pressure in professional sports but we want to win the cup for the right reasons. It’s not about appeasing the media – we want to be able to enjoy that feeling again of being able to embrace each other at the final whistle and share that moment with our families who will have travelled down to London.”

With Hull KR losing twice to Leeds this season and having to play Championship sides in the Middle 8’s in recent weeks, Leeds are the 2/9 favourites to win on Saturday.

However, the favourites tag is again something Sinfield says is more for the media than for the players, with Rhinos knowing they still have to perform well in the capital.

“We can take some confidence from those wins but more so from our form of late rather than the two results against Hull KR,” the 34-year-old added.

“They are a great side and we expect to see the best of them. The cup has been a chance for them to play their best rugby and we’ve seen that in their games against the likes of Wigan and Warrington.

“They’ve shown how capable and dangerous they can be on their day and we look forward to facing a very, very good KR team and we know we’ll have to be at our very best to beat them.”

Sinfield will bid farewell to Leeds Rhinos and Rugby League at the end of the season to switch codes and join up with Yorkshire Carnegie and while he is not looking to reflect on his career just yet he admits there is a motivation to help those also set to leave get their hands on some more silverware.

“Jamie Peacock has been a warrior for us and nothing would be more special than sending him off with a winner’s medal,” he added.

“Likewise Kylie Leuluai who has been another warrior for us. It’s the same for him. It’d be nice for all of them but for every member of the squad you can think of a reason to win it for them but we have to focus on the game and hopefully we can be good enough on the day.”

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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