Covid won't keep Leeds Rhinos off the field - Kevin Sinfield
Leeds Rhinos would only ask for games to be postponed because of coronavirus if they “absolutely had to”, director of rugby Kevin Sinfield says.
Clubs can request a postponement if seven or more players are unavailable owing to the virus, but Sinfield said that is not a decision Leeds want to take.
Rhinos had to shut down training for a spell earlier in pre-season after around 18 players and staff tested positive for Covid-19, but their preferred option once the campaign begins would be to give youngsters a chance, rather than call a game off.
“I don’t think we’d be a club who would choose that route unless we absolutely had to,” Sinfield pledged.
That could have a bearing on whether fringe players will be sent out on loan this term.
One Rhinos player, former England academy prop Muizz Mustapha, has gone out on season-long loan to Hull KR and Sinfield confirmed a similar arrangement could “possibly” be considered for others.
With no reserve grade this year and the dual-registration system not expected to go ahead in its previous form, the former Leeds captain stressed young and fringe players “want to play and we need to make sure they get opportunities to play”.
But he pointed out: “We have got a first team squad of 31 currently, which is a lot smaller that we’ve had in previous years, when we might have had a 34- or 35-man squad.
“We need to be smart, as well, on how long we allow people to go on loan, especially given Covid is still around.”
Meanwhile, Sinfield said he was “absolutely delighted” at the expected return of academy rugby - at under-19 level- this year, after the entire 2020 campaign was wiped out.
“We need those young players to come through,” he stated.
“The club is built on producing our own and getting them through.
“We have some wonderful young players and they’ve just missed a complete 12 months of development.
“It’s the same for our scholarship. In an ideal world the academy would come back as under-18s and we’d have our reserves running, but unfortunately that’s not to be in 2021.”
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.