The flak England have taken since their shock defeat by Italy could force them into a siege mentality that could serve them well in the World Cup, their captain believes.
Kevin Sinfield faced the rugby league world’s media on Monday, still looking for answers to how his side had managed to lose 15-14 to novices rated at 1000/1 to win the trophy.
“All the fire from the outside has been turned in on us – and justifiably so,” said Sinfield.
“We didn’t start with a siege mentality, but everything that has been said about us could make us that way. I’m looking forward to being back with the boys and looking them in the eyes.
“We really know each other well and gave confidence in each other. We’ll stick together.”
As captain of Leeds, Sinfield has plenty of experience of apparently disastrous results that seemed to have knocked them out for the count, only for them to get back to their feet and emerge as winners at the end out the fight.
“It’s not just me,” he said. “Everybody in that team has experienced a miserable result. It’s how you deal with it that is a test of your character.”
Sinfield, who has taken particular criticism on social media for his display at half-back, distanced himself slightly from the theory of his coach, Steve McNamara, that the team had lost focus and was thinking about its opening World Cup fixture – against Australia in Cardiff on Saturday.
“I can only speak for myself, but I was looking forward to playing Italy,” he said. “I wanted to try out some of the things we’d been working on in camp in South Africa.”
Sinfield points to one obvious reason why that never happened. “17 dropped balls speaks for itself,” he said. “But I can promise that we’ll be working as hard as we can this week to put it right.”
McNamara said that Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin, who missed the Italy game with a sore Achilles tendon, was “in good shape,” but is not guaranteed to be fit enough to face the Aussies.
Italy, who play Wales in the other half of the double bill at the Millennium Stadium, are being boosted by the arrival of Craig Gower, the Australian league and Italian union international. He is not fit enough to play himself, but will be coaching and mentoring the Italian half-backs.