Kevin Sinfield has defended the decision by Great Britain’s selectors to fly Ash Handley around the world to Papua New Guinea as a late call-up: and then not include him for the Lions’ final match of the tour.
Handley’s excellent form in 2019 was rewarded when he was drafted in after Great Britain were left with just one fit winger following an injury to Ryan Hall: but despite many expecting him to feature on Saturday in PNG, Warrington half-back Blake Austin has retained his place on the wing.
Sinfield reiterated to TotalRL that he has nothing to do with selection policies for the Lions – and while he conceded it was a tough situation for Handley, the Lions have picked what they believe is the best side to get their first win of the tour.
“I do not play a part in selection – I’ve never been in those selection meetings and I don’t think it’s fair to suggest I am. I never will be, too,” he said.
“Ash was brought out here because we deemed he was the best man for the job to give us cover on the wing spots. The difficultly for Ash is that it’s a long way to come and not play, of course, I understand that.
“However, there are a number of others who have been here for four weeks and haven’t played. Do we give a jersey away because someone has flown for 24 hours to get here, or do we give a jersey to someone who is the right man for the job? There were question marks over Zak Hardaker’s fitness but in truth, if you analyse Blake Austin’s performance like the staff did.. I thought he did a good job out on the wing.”
Sinfield also stressed that it is nothing new to see international sides picking players out of position, saying: “Over the last 20 years – and even in famous Great Britain teams – there are people all over the place traditionally.
“The mindset is generally ‘let’s get our best 13 players on the field’. I can remember playing an Australian team who had Andrew Johns at hooker – and at the time, he was the best scrum-half in the world. We have a number of players in our backs who are adaptable but I will 100 per cent defend the selections that have been made.”