Kevin Sinfield insists there are no closed doors on England selection

Kevin Sinfield insists the door has not been closed on any player after England released their performance squads last week.

46 players were selected across the Elite Performance Squad and England Knights, with some notable omissions.

The likes of Sam Tomkins, Greg Eden and Danny Houghton were not included in either squad, despite impressing domestically.

However, Sinfield insisted that any player can work his way into contention for the mid-season Test against New Zealand in Denver, or for any future international fixtures.
“The door is completely open,” Sinfield told League Express.

“We want every English player to be performing as well as possible and we’re all watching. I’ve no doubt we will get it wrong, but if someone is playing well enough they will be in the next squad.

“Alex Walmsley wasn’t in the initial EPS squad at the start of 2017, but he went to the mid-season Test and then the World Cup. If someone believes they should be in the squad, keep playing like that and we won’t close the door on them going to Denver.

“We want some players who are in the Knights squad to jump out and make that team, and also some players not in either squad to prove us wrong and break in. I’ve been there myself as a player and hopefully those guys that missed out will continue their development each week and force their way in.”

The return of the Knights has seen several emerging talents being selected at international level for the first time, including London’s James Cunningham, the only Championship player selected.

Sinfield explained that the selections for the Knights squad were made with a focus on the World Cup year 2021 and beyond.

“It’s about getting players ready to play international rugby and winning the World Cup,” he said.

“We needed a long-term plan.

“With some of the Knights selections we have one eye on 2025.

“We started with the EPS squad initially and we have shown some loyalty shown to the lads who played in the World Cup.

“There are a number of players you could look at and say they should be in the squad, but it’s all down to opinion.

“Danny Houghton would fit in most people’s squads, the same with Paul McShane, but we’re blessed with top quality hookers and I think at times you have to make a call based on the individual and the group. We felt it right at this time to go with a more condensed elite squad.

“Some of those players have been exposed to international rugby and we want to give some other lads a chance. There are a few anomalies. Joe Burgess is an example, but we feel he’s young enough and that being in the Knights squad will be a huge benefit for him.

“If you look at Super League now, it’s a massive jump from Academy to first-team rugby. And it’s exactly the same with Test rugby.

“Let’s plug something in between that will make players ready to make the jump again. Let’s get them in different environments, let’s give them challenges, let’s have them make mistakes without it being at the very top in a World Cup.

“We want to expose as many English players as possible to a high-performance programme and have them spend time together, train together, eat together and also just talk to each other. We don’t have much time with them and those friendships don’t just happen overnight.”

Meanwhile, Sinfield confirmed plans for the two performance squads to train together.

“We’ve got two sessions with both squads before the mid-season Tests. After that we’ll review both squads, two further squads will get selected and we’ll run two further sessions before the end of the year.

“The first of those and the third will be a joint session to allow the younger players to appreciate the culture put together by the senior players. How they operated last year was very special and we’ve got to grab a hold of it. We just want to continue building.”