Former Leeds and England utility back Lee Smith has credited Wakefield Wildcats for making him mature enough to be able to fully exploit his second chance in rugby union.
The 27-year-old joined Newcastle Falcons last week and narrowly missed out on making his debut for them against Northampton on Sunday. It’s his second attempt at becoming a cross-code star. In 2009, after making three consecutive Grand Final winning appearances with Leeds, scoring a try in each, Smith joined London Wasps. However, he failed to break through into the first team and re-joined the Rhinos.
Smith says he was not grown up enough to succeed in union. He said: “I’ve grown up. When I left Leeds I had to come out of that bubble as they really looked after you there.
“Going to Wakefield was totally different. You don’t get half as much given to you on a plate and, in that sense, it was great as it made me a lot more mature.
“I enjoyed it at Wakey and it has made me better prepared to make this work now.
“I’d always had ambitions to play union. As a kid, I played just as much of that as I did league.
“What happened with Wasps disappointed me and I always wanted to go back. Luckily enough, Newcastle have given me this opportunity.
“With everything that’s happening at Wakefield, and the return of promotion and relegation, it’s not financially secure not knowing your future.”
Smith says he is looking forward to playing against friend Sam Burgess, who is set to join Bath later this year.
“The only thing I’d say about Sam is he’s an absolutely fantastic athlete and in any code he’s a danger,” he said.
“He is just very, very difficult to stop while he’s a very, very good tackler. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll make it and could do so for the World Cup with England, too. I disagree with anyone who says otherwise.
“If he gets the right coaching, there’s no reason why not.
“There’s probably only two people in the world who could pick and choose what they want to do like this – Sonny Bill Williams and Sam. Sonny Bill’s done it in both codes and gone back again and I can’t see why Sam can’t either.”