Leeds Rhinos’ Kiwi clash a ‘fitting send-off’ for departing stars

Rohan Smith says that this weekend’s pre-World Cup game against New Zealand will be used as a “fitting send-off” for Leeds Rhinos’ departing players.

The match at Headingley on Saturday (kick-off 6pm) forms part of the Kiwis’ World Cup preparation, as well as being a send-off for Thomas Leuluai following the Wigan Warriors halfback’s retirement.

But Leeds, two weeks on from a devastating Super League Grand Final defeat at Old Trafford to St Helens, will be treating it as an opportunity to say farewell to their own cast of departing players.

The longest-serving of them is Liam Sutcliffe, a Rhinos product who has had more than a decade of first-team involvement but is now heading to Hull FC alongside Brad Dwyer.

Former Hull player Tom Briscoe is leaving after nine years at the club, leaving memories including his record five tries in the 2015 Challenge Cup final.

Also heading for pastures new are New Zealander Bodene Thompson and homegrown youngster Muizz Mustapha, while Zak Hardaker’s future remains uncertain.

After a break last week to recover from Grand Final heartbreak, the Leeds squad – minus World Cup internationals – will return to camp this week to prepare for the number one-ranked side in the world.

“We’ll get going, refresh and use that as an opportunity to farewell some players and give a fitting send-off for players who have given such great service to our club,” said Rhinos coach Smith.

“It’s at Headingley, there’ll be a big crowd, it’ll be a fitting way to say thank you to those players.”

The Rhinos will also be motivated by the presence of club legend Rob Burrow, who will be the guest of honour, while former prop Adam Cuthbertson will make a guest appearance to finish his career.

Meanwhile, three stars of Leeds’ Championship-winning Academy side have been awarded first-team contracts.

Fullback Alfie Edgell, outside back Riley Lumb and centre Jack Smith have all spent time with Rohan Smith’s squad this year and will be a permanent fixture next term.

“For them to be rewarded with first-team contracts is a credit to them but also to our whole environment,” said Leeds’ Under-18s coach Chev Walker.

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