CAPTAIN KEVIN Sinfield will be a key man for Leeds Rhinos over the second half of the season, believes second-row Stevie Ward.
With Liam Sutcliffe due to undergo major knee surgery tomorrow and Danny McGuire still battling to get over an ankle injury, Ward feels the captain’s influence will be crucial.
Sinfield produced a man-of-the-match display after being recalled to the starting line-up for last Friday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final win at Hull.
Ward said: “It’s not just his kicking, it’s control of the game.
“In defence, he is always talking to you and telling you where to be. Also in the early stages of attack, in yardage, he is always commanding stuff and telling you the best places to go for us to get the best out of whatever we are doing.
“He is massive and he has been there and done it. To have someone like Kevin next to me all through the game is only going to be good for me.”
Ward has also hailed converted centre Jimmy Keinhorst for his performances in the second-row, as well as Brett Delaney, who returned from injury against Hull.
“The thing with second-row is just hard work and being ruthless and Jimmy K has got that in him,” Ward observed.
“If he keeps going like that and maybe puts a bit of size on, we’re going to be looking at having a new second-row. He has really got the characteristics to keep going with that. He is really motivated to do stuff in the game and it’s good to have Jimmy back in the starting line-up.”
Of Delaney, Ward said: “To have him back in the side is good for us. He’s not only a character around the dressing room, but out on the pitch he can really lift you. When it gets hard in defence and everyone’s blowing, he’s there and he’s the first to put his hand up.”
After a long struggle with shoulder problems, Ward has returned to fitness and form this year and was hailed as “outstanding” by coach Brian McDermott following the victory at Hull. But the 21-year-old insisted: “It is just my job. It is what I have to do, it is my game – I am here to do a job and that’s all I am focusing on. Hopefully, I can keep going. I am not looking for extra rewards or extra benefits from it, it’s what the team needs and I am happy to do that.”
The big games keep coming for Rhinos, who play host to second-placed St Helens on Friday and then travel to Wigan Warriors, third in Super League, six days later.
“The next few weeks are really massive for us,” said Ward. “It’s exciting. That’s why we play the game. We are going into the business end and it’s going to be one of those spells when we have to stick together as a group through thick and thin.
“It will be a good one for us.”