Smith backs Takairangi to shine

Coach Tony Smith is expecting Brad Takairangi to make as big an impact on the pitch for Hull KR as he already has off it.

The Cook Islands and New Zealand forward, signed from Parramatta, was finally handed a debut after recovering from a hamstring injury picked up during pre-season as Leeds were beaten 26-6 on Friday.

Smith, who watched Kane Linnett score a hat-trick against Leeds as his made it two Super League wins running, was delighted to be able to call on the 31-year-old Takairangi, who has also played for Sydney Roosters and Gold Coast Titans.

“It’s been frustrating for Brad, because he hasn’t just come to a new club, but to a new country,” said Smith.

“He’s been itching to play, but having said that, he’s been productive off the pitch since he came, because he passes on his experience in a positive way.

“Now we want him to use that experience out on the pitch, because we have high expectations for him to do well for this club.

“We will give him time to play himself into some form, and I think he will make a big contribution here.”

Smith hopes prop Korbin Sims will be back for Saturday’s trip to Warrington after missing the Leeds game after suffering head knocks in two of the previous three matches.

Halfback Mikey Lewis will also be available after a one-match suspension.

Rovers, meanwhile, have agreed a new contract with hooker Jez Litten, and Smith says it’s a “pretty big statement” of the club’s ambition.

The 23-year-old, whose existing deal ran to the end of next season, is now under terms until 2025.

After a four-match loan spell from Hull FC in 2019, Litten crossed the city in a permanent move ahead of the 2020 campaign, when he played nine times, and has featured in all five matches this year.

“It’s great to have Jez contracted long-term, and there will be other announcements in the future,” said Smith.

“It shows what sort of ambition we have and what we’re trying to build here. In Jez and Mikey Lewis, who is under contract to 2023, we have a couple of local lads who want to wear the badge.

“We feel we can build a team, and not something temporary, around talented young players.”

Smith, who rotates Litten and Matt Parcell in the hooking role, continued: “Jez is a terrific young man, quite quiet but really ambitious.

“There were a number of areas he needed to improve on, such as fitness and defence, and he’s done that.

“I will work hard to help him continue to improve, and I think he has a big future at club level and higher.”

Meanwhile Rovers have loaned 20-year-old prop Anesu Mudoti to League 1 Doncaster for the season.

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