Coronavirus impact making transfer plans more difficult, admits Kevin Sinfield

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK is hampering Super League clubs’ overseas recruitment plans for 2021, according to Leeds director of rugby Kevin Sinfield.

The Rhinos have yet to announce a new signing for next year and Sinfield says Covid-19 is proving a deterrent to overseas players.

“We’re not where we want to be in terms of recruitment at all,” Sinfield said.

“Some clubs have done some really good business but a lot have found, and that’s us in particular, that Covid has hit pretty hard.

“It’s created some difficulties with budgets and the wait for those to unfold.

“And when you look at the overseas market and the NRL, players are really tentative at making the step over here at the minute.

“People look at the UK and how we’ve handled Covid and, with the dark months over November and December when they’d normally come across, they’re looking at that and I don’t think it’s all that attractive for them at the minute.”

A delayed start to the 2021 season, caused by a seven-week extension to the 2020 campaign, will give clubs more time to build their squads, although Sinfield expected even longer.

Super League has announced the new season will start on March 11 and finish on November 9, a fortnight before the start of the World Cup.

“I was a bit surprised,” Sinfield said. “I think we were expecting it to be late March or early April but I think it gives us plenty of time.

“We’ve got a bigger pre-season than for a number of years and we get a chance to let everybody rest up.

“I think as well as physically, mentally it’s been tough for the players, who have had to make more sacrifices than normally do.”

Meanwhile, Sinfield has given the thumbs up to the decision to stick with a top-six play-off series in 2021.

The format was changed from top five to top four in mid-year when it became apparent clubs would struggle to fulfil all their fixtures in the regular season and it was amended again late on to offset the cancellation of a host of games due to positive Covid-19 tests.

“I thought it worked quite well this year,” Sinfield said. “My favourite was always the top five but I do like the fact that the top two teams get rewarded with a week off and it gives them the best chance of making the Grand Final.

“It keep teams interested and involved longer so I’m in support of it.”

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