Kevin Sinfield: Leeds & England captain retires from internationals

Leeds Rhinos and England captain Kevin Sinfield has announced his retirement from international rugby league.

The 33-year-old half-back played 26 times for England and led his country on home soil at the 2013 World Cup.

His last appearance for the national team was the narrow World Cup semi-final defeat by New Zealand at Wembley last November.

England coach Steve McNamara must now select a new captain for the Four Nations tournament later this year.

World Cup winners Australia, New Zealand and Samoa will provide England's opposition down under.

England's 2014 Four Nations fixtures

England v Samoa

Brisbane, 25 October

Australia v England

Melbourne, 2 November

New Zealand v England

Dunedin, 8 November

Final

Wellington, 15 November

Sinfield, who also played 14 times for Great Britain, made his debut for England in 2000 and played in three World Cups.

He succeeded Leeds team-mate Jamie Peacock as England captain in October 2012, shortly after leading the Rhinos to a sixth Super League Grand Final victory.

"This is a decision I have taken a great deal of time over and it has been the toughest of my professional career," said Oldham-born Sinfield. 

"I have always loved playing for my country, whether for England or Great Britain, and it has been a privilege and honour to lead my country for the last two seasons.

"The World Cup last year was a major step forward for the England team and the support we received reached a new level. I would like to thank the England and Great Britain fans who have always given me their support and I am sure more successful times are not far away."

Kevin Sinfield lifts the Challenge Cup

Sinfield (left) captained Leeds Rhinos to a first Challenge Cup victory in 15 years on 23 August

Sinfield, who captained Leeds to a first Challenge Cup final victory in 15 years last month, wants to prolong his club career for as long as possible.

"Following the World Cup, I was keen to continue. However, I want to be able to perform at the highest possible level whenever I take the field," he said.

"I believe that by taking this decision, it will enable me to do that for the Rhinos for the remainder of my career.

"I will cherish my memories of international rugby, they have helped shape me into the player I am today and it has always been special to pull on the England or Great Britain shirt."

McNamara added: "Kevin is the ultimate professional and it has been a privilege to work with him in the last few years. His contribution and commitment to the England programme has been exemplary.

"I know that he has not taken this decision lightly and having spoken to him at length in the last few days I fully understand his reasons for calling time on his international career."