VETERAN former England rugby league captain Kevin Sinfield is poised to follow in the footsteps of some esteemed code-switchers by ending his 19-year association with Leeds Rhinos at the end of the season and embarking on a career in rugby union.
Sinfield, 34, has signed an 18-month deal with second-tier side Yorkshire Carnegie, having led Leeds Rhinos to six Super League titles, three World Club Challenges and a Challenge Cup success since being made skipper in 2002 at the age of 22.
The likes of Jason Robinson, Andy Farrell, Iestyn Harris and Sonny Bill Williams have all trodden a similar path and achieved renowned status, and Sinfield insists the aim is to be playing top-flight rugby union within a year.
“I never wanted to play against the Rhinos and throughout my career I have always had an admiration for rugby union and wanted to challenge myself in that code,” said Sinfield.“I am fortunate as a professional player in this era that opportunities like this exist for me and it is something I want to grab with both hands.
“[Executive president] Sir Ian McGeechan, the new board and owners of Yorkshire Carnegie have set out ambitious plans to gain promotion from the Championship next season and regain their place in the Premiership and that is something that excites me.”
The Oldham-born stand-off made his professional debut in 1996 and needs just three further points to become only the fourth rugby league in history to reach 4,000 in his career.
“This was one of the toughest decisions of my career but I know the time is right for me to finish my time in rugby league and embark on a new challenge,” added Sinfield, whose side currently top Super League. “My goal now is to do whatever I can to make sure the season and my Rhinos career end on the best possible note.”
■ Age: 34
■ Club appearances: 491
■ Points for Leeds Rhinos: 3,997
■ Domestic titles: 12
■ England caps: 26
■ Points for England: 176
■ Great Britain appearances: 14