THE SIGNING of England winger Tom Briscoe could be the final piece in Leeds Rhinos’ jigsaw, according to club legend Keith Senior.
Briscoe and fellow recruit Paul Aiton are just what Rhinos need to transform them from last year’s nearly-men into champions again, believes Senior.
Rhinos failed to reach either major final last year, for the first time since 2006, but Senior, who now works in the community for Leeds Rugby Foundation, feels the decision to sign Briscoe in particular was inspired.
Senior was centre to some of the finest wingers in the game during a sparkling 18-season career and reckons former Hull man Briscoe is up there with any of them.
“He is a really good signing, one of the best wingers in the competition,” said Senior, who has not played since suffering a serious knee injury in 2011.
“I think Paul Aiton is a very good signing as well and those two could get them firing again.
“Tom Briscoe was really good for Hull and with the service he will get at Leeds I think he could be even better.
“I rate him up there in the Ryan Hall category. I have played against him and he is skilful and strong.
“Every time he takes the ball up, he carries it really well, so I would rate him as one of the best signings Leeds have made for a while.”
Briscoe is poised to make his competitive debut in Sunday’s First Utility Super League opener away to Hull KR.
And, according to Senior, he now forms part of possibly the best back division in Super League.
“They are immense, there’s some really high-calibre players in there and they have got some strength in depth,” observed Senior.
“They have got six quality players fighting for five spots and that is good for competition, it means week-in and week-out they have got to perform.
“It also gives (coach) Brian McDermott the luxury of being able to rotate his squad and rest players, making sure they are fired up for the important games.”
Questions have been raised about Rhinos’ ageing forward pack, which includes 36-year-old prop Jamie Peacock and fellow front-rower Kylie Leuluai, who will turn 36 next month. But Senior said: “I know what they can do, JP and Kylie lead from the front.
“They are not getting any younger, but they still think they can do a job and that’s important. It means their head is in the right place and they are up for the challenge of doing another season – or two in JP’s case.
“Let’s hope their body is there as well, but, going forward with ball in hand, they are two of the best in Super League.
“They will still be out there doing the hard yards and, hopefully, creating the space for the backs to play in.”
Meanwhile, Senior is looking forward to the start of the Kingstone Press Championship season, having joined the coaching staff at his first professional club, Sheffield Eagles.
He is also preparing for a charity challenge – running four marathons in successive weekends to raise funds for the Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust.
Senior, who has been accepted as a celebrity entrant in this year’s London Marathon, said: “I am doing three runs per week and a big one at weekends.
“I am up to 25k now. I’ll probably do another one of those and then raise it to 30k and then get up to 40k two weeks before the first marathon.”