Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar is certain that Kyle Eastmond, who the Rhinos revealed as their new signing last week, will enjoy great success on his return to Rugby League after almost ten years in the other code.
The Rhinos shocked the Rugby League world with their announcement last week, introducing Eastmond to the media through a Zoom conference, with Agar and Eastmond himself both appearing bullish about his prospects of creating a big impact when this season’s Super League competition begins later this month.
“Kyle’s skill set is a phenomenal one, which includes speed and acceleration, and we feel he has sharpened his skill set in rugby union,” said Agar.
“That can be a benefit to us. He was at the pinnacle of Rugby League as a young player and took on an enormous challenge that culminated in him facing the All Blacks in Auckland.
“He’s never been frightened of taking a challenge on, and this is one.
“Kyle had opportunities to carry on playing rugby union, but when we approached him about coming to Leeds, he came back within a day and said he wanted to do it.
“And now he’s here, we’ll give him all the help he needs. We think it’s a great story for our game and we think Kyle is doing it for the right reasons.
“We have a terrific bunch of players and if we can put a smile on his face we think he has the ability to light up the place on Friday nights.”
Eastmond, who played his last Rugby League game for St Helens in 2011, quickly earning international recognition in rugby union for England in 2013, admits he might have returned earlier to Rugby League if the cards had fallen differently.
“There were times when I thought about it and it didn’t come off,” he said.
“But now I’ve been playing union for nine and a half years and I think I’ve achieved my goals.
“I’m a creative player, normally a 6 or 7, but I’ll leave it to the coaches to decide where I play.
“The maturity I’ve come back with now will put me in a completely different situation to when I left. I’m coming back with a lot more experience in a different environment. I learned to play another game as well Rugby League.”
When asked what appeals to him about Rugby League, Eastmond gave an interesting answer.
“The big thing is the honesty and integrity in Rugby League,” he said.
“There were opportunities in rugby union in France and a couple of Premiership opportunities as well.
“But the important thing was to get into an environment where people trust me.
“I am proud of what I did and what I achieved.
“I’ve played for some great clubs in rugby union and made an impact.
“It was a great experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve learned a lot, both good and bad.”
Rhinos supporters will be fervently hoping that, when he makes his debut for the club at Emerald Headingley, the good will convincingly outweigh the bad.
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