Garry Schofield reflects on the return to Rugby League of new Leeds Rhinos signing Kyle Eastmond
Leeds’ decision to sign Kyle Eastmond is very interesting.
It’s been something of a slow burner, because I remember there being speculation over him returning to Rugby League from union last summer, when Leicester released him.
At the time, my main concern was that Kyle, who left St Helens to join Bath back in 2011, and has also played for Wasps, had been out of our game for too long.
I guess the time it’s taken to sort out a Rugby League deal shows I wasn’t alone in that line of thinking.
Leeds’ lengthy list of injured players is no doubt a factor in their latest bit of recruitment.
With Rob Lui facing up to three months out with a thigh injury and Luke Gale touch and go for the start of the season because he is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle, I can see Richard Agar going with Kyle and Richie Myler as his halfbacks for the opening Super League game against Wakefield a fortnight on Saturday.
That would be quite an ask for Kyle, given the time frame, but needs must, and let’s not forget, he isn’t coming to Rugby League raw.
He was good enough to play for England as a 20-year-old, and has since become a dual-international.
He’s now 31, but if he’s looked after himself, he should be able to cope with the physical demands, and let’s face it, he knows exactly what’s needed in terms of fitness and the tactical side of the game.
He’ll also benefit from the presence on the training ground of Sean Long, the man he succeeded as scrum-half at St Helens and who is now in the coaching staff at Leeds, having had his own spell in union.
Kyle could also play fullback, and provides an option now Jack Walker is out for the season with that foot injury.
That’s obviously a big blow for both Jack and the club, and you have to feel for the player, who had surgery on the injury last season, having previously had a shoulder operation.
Let’s hope the issue can be resolved and he can put his problems firmly in the past.
Regarding the fullback slot, I think the Rhinos should go with Ash Handley, and I hope they avoid the temptation to play Liam Sutcliffe there, because I want to see him continue his development as a centre after having been shuttled around the side in the past.
Kyle has a two-year contract at Headingley, and whether or not he’s a success is in his own hands. We know he has the talent, but now he has to show he has the hunger.
I’d like to have heard him say he wants to put himself back in the England reckoning, and making Shaun Wane’s World Cup squad would be a great story.
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