THE LAST final Kevin Sinfield played in was in front of a crowd of more than 73,000.
There may only be around 2,000 people watching when he features in his next, the British & Irish Cup showpiece for Yorkshire Carnegie against London Welsh at Headingley tomorrow.
Nevertheless, just five months after rounding off his glittering Leeds Rhinos career with that treble-clinching Super League Grand Final victory over Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford, he is clearly excited by his first shot at silverware in rugby union.
Sinfield, at 35, has adapted to the 15-man code sufficiently enough in that short time to now almost be a regular starter piloting Carnegie from fly-half.
He gets the 10 jersey tomorrow and, on his new career, he said: “I’m really enjoying it. It’s different – very different – but I feel pretty fortunate going from what we achieved with Rhinos and then coming across for a fresh opportunity to play another sport like this.
“It’s brilliant and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge. The last final I played actually at Headingley was winning with the Rhinos Academy in ’98 so I have really fond memories of that.
“It’s pretty special to be able to play a final at Headingley and, hopefully, I can add to it by getting my first trophy in union.”
On the transition itself, Sinfield said: “I’m getting better. My understanding of the game is far better than it was.
“There’s still certain parts I’m unsure about but that was always going to be the case. You will never learn everything in five months – it’s more like a crash-course and, like with driving, you pick up experience on the road.
“I’m certainly doing that now. I’m making mistakes but I’m improving, learning and really enjoying it. The most surprising thing for me is, the longer I’m in it, the gap between the two sports gets bigger and bigger.
“My understanding gets better of how it all fits together and the management of a game as a fly-half but I realise the games are very, very different, too, far more so than I expected. The most enjoyable part is, first, when you get ball in hand on a dry day and you can play a number of phases.
“In rugby league, you get six tackles but in union you get as many as you can control the ball for and, in that aspect, when you ask questions of the defence, you can do it for 17, 18, 19 times. But, secondly, the lads have just been brilliant. I’ve made some really good mates, probably more than I thought, and that’s been great.”
Aside from tomorrow’s game, when Carnegie aim to win the B&I Cup for the first time, the club’s main aim is, of course, striving for promotion.
They are guaranteed a top-four spot with just two regular Championship rounds remaining and will challenge favourites Bristol, surprise package Doncaster Knights and, probably, Bedford Blues for a place in the elite during the forthcoming play-offs.
Carnegie, coincidentally, won at Welsh in the league a week ago, clinching a 31-28 victory in the final moments, a fifth consecutive win in all competitions.