Sinfield: Ward will light up Wembley

PA Sport
Stevie Ward, left, will play for Leeds in the Challenge Cup final on Saturday
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Stevie Ward, left, will play for Leeds in the Challenge Cup final on Saturday

Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield believes Wembley could be the stage for his 18-year-old protege Stevie Ward to come of age.

The teenage utility player only made his Super League debut five months ago but he will line up against Warrington in Saturday's Carnegie Challenge Cup final. Ward has been dubbed the new "Kevin" after being compared with his club captain and Sinfield is expecting his young team-mate to live up to the billing.

He said: "He's full of enthusiasm and he's got plenty of class about him. To be given an opportunity like that at 18 years of age is unbelievable but I think he'll relish it. I think you'll probably see his best game this year."

Ward, a back-row forward who has partnered his captain at half-back in the recent absence of Rob Burrow, has a long way to go to match the achievements of Sinfield, who has smashed the club's records for goals and points and become Leeds' most successful captain of all time.

Yet Sinfield does not feel the comparisons are mis-placed.

"We are different in so many ways but I can understand a few of the similarities," he said.

"We both combined doing our A-levels with playing in the first team and we play similar positions but he's a different player to me.

"I have a lot of time for him. I think over the next few years he's going to turn out to be a star of our competition - I have no doubt about that - and to play a part in his early development has been fantastic."

Ward has appeared in the Rhinos' last 11 matches, including their 39-28 semi-final win over holders Wigan, and was on Thursday included in coach Brian McDermott's 19-man Wembley squad, a fitting reward for his decision to relinquish his place on the England Academy's recent tour of Australia.

"Getting to play at Wembley in a Challenge Cup final would mean everything to me, especially after pulling out of the England tour," Ward said. "To walk out at Wembley at 18 and play in a Cup final would be absolutely breath-taking and that first whistle would be unlike anything else I've ever experienced."

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