Comment: Five half-backs who can replace Kevin Sinfield

When Kevin Sinfield announced his retirement from international Rugby League yesterday, he cited wanting to blood the next generation as a reason for the decision.

That’s because, despite being nearly 34, he was firmly in coach Steve McNamara’s plans and would have almost certainly started alongside in-form NRL star Gareth Widdop in next month’s Four Nations.

There is now a brilliant opportunity for someone to step-up and help guide England to glory.

But who is the right man for the job? Should McNamara call up another half-back to the fill the void or utilise one of the four playmakers already at his disposal in his 34-man train-on squad?

The four men already in his plans are: Richard Myler (Warrington Wolves), Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves), Chris Bridge (Warrington Wolves) and Matty Smith (Wigan Warriors), while other eligible replacements include Rangi Chase (Salford Red Devils), Kevin Brown (Widnes Vikings), Marc Sneyd (Castleford Tigers), Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants) and Trent Hodkinson (Canterbury Bulldogs).

For me, there are five realistic contenders for the position.

Marc-Sneyd-CasMarc Sneyd (Castleford Tigers)
The Hull FC-bound 23-year-old has been one of 2014’s most exciting and effective half-backs. He has more try assists (30) than anyone else in Super League and has scored six four-pointers of his own. He’s also a deadly goal kicker, albeit an unorthodox one. There is a chance we will be building the team around him by the time the next World Cup comes around so it seems silly to leave him out. I suspect McNamara will, though.

In a nutshell
+ Young, skilful, exciting, proven in Super League
Defence questionable at times, lots to learn

Matty-SmithMatty Smith (Wigan Warriors)
A ready-made replacement, Smith brings to the table poise, skill and a good kicking game. At 27 he is mentally strong and experienced enough to step up to the international stage and his performances over the last two seasons more than merit a call-up. In 2014, he has assisted 25 tries (placing him third in the league), scored three of his own, and landed 90 conversions. He has all the tools to take over Sinfield and is surely one of the favourites to do so.

In a nutshell
+ Solid all-round game, has performed on biggest stage at club level
Perhaps not as exciting or creative as some

Kevin-BrownKevin Brown (Widnes Vikings)
If you picked a team based on stats alone, Brown would be the first half-back on the team sheet. Not only has he made 24 try assists this season, placing him fourth in Super League, he’s also notched 12 four-pointers of his own. The fact he wasn’t included in McNamara’s 34-man side despite these numbers doesn’t bode well, but he certainly deserves a shot.

In a nutshell
+ Proven try-scorer and creator, difficult to play against
Doesn’t kick for goal, can be fragile defensively

Danny-Brough-GiantsDanny Brough (Huddersfield Giants)
He may have represented Scotland at the World Cup after being shunned by McNamara, but the Dewsbury-born playmaker is as English as they come and would relish the opportunity to take Sinfield’s place. The 31-year-old is one of Super League’s most consistent and impressive half-backs with a kicking game to rival the very best. Stats-wise, he’s made 27 assists in 2014, scored three tries, kicked 93 goals and nine 40/20s. He’s on course to win a third Albert Goldthorpe Medal this season, too, but it’s hard to see that being enough to convince McNamara, who must know something we don’t about the Giants star.

In a nutshell
+ Superb all-round game, great kicker, very consistent
At 31 perhaps he is the wrong option to take with the next World Cup in mind

Trent-HodkinsonTrent Hodkinson (Canterbury Bulldogs)
James Graham pleaded with McNamara to pick Hodkinson for last year’s World Cup after he found out his 26-year-old team-mate had an English father. Hodkinson was reportedly keen too but McNamara went in another direction and time is now running out to snap up the scrum-half, who made his State of Origin debut this year and impressed, guiding New South Wales to a historic series win. It’s difficult to know whether or not he would still consider an England call, but he knows how to unravel Australian defences better than anyone else at our disposal and is surely worth pursuing.

In a nutshell
+ Proven at the very highest level
May have his sights set on representing Australia now

What do you think? Who should Steve McNamara select in Sinfield’s place? Vote in the below poll and let us know.