LEEDS Carnegie have continued their squad strengthening for next season and beyond with the signing of highly-rated young fly-half Harry Leonard from Edinburgh.
The former Scotland Under 20s captain has played in the Edinburgh first team since he was 19 with appearances in the RaboDirect PRO12 and the Heineken Cup including a strong performance this season for Edinburgh during their win over Munster.
However, eager for more regular action, he has grabbed an opportunity to move to Headingley.
Leonard, 21, has penned a two-year deal with the Championship-title chasers – and hopes, by the time he links with them, they are in the top flight.
“It will be a good opportunity for me to get more consistent game time,” he said.
“The ambition and aspirations that Leeds have going forward impressed me as well as the great facilities available to train and play in.
“Hopefully things will go well for the rest of the season and the play-offs and we can get into the Premiership.
“But, if not, I’m looking forward to the chance to help the team get up next season; it is a young team and I am looking forward to being part of that.”
He will offer stiff competition to current fly-half Glyn Hughes while Leeds have also seen prolific winger David Doherty sign a new two-year deal, another boost ahead of tomorrow night’s British &Irish Cup quarter-final against Plymouth at Headingley.
Leonard plans to attend their home Championship game against the same opponents a week Sunday to meet some of his new team-mates.
“I have played against Chris Walker for Scotland Under 20s,” said the rangy No10, who was actually born in Brighton but qualifies for the Tartan Army via his mother.
“In fact, I think he was captain of England Under 20s when I was Scotland captain.
“I also spoke to Andy Titterrell about Leeds before I came down to speak to the club and he could not speak highly enough about Carnegie and was very positive in general.
“Obviously in Scotland there are only two professional teams in Edinburgh and Glasgow so the chance to challenge myself every week is something I am looking forward to.”
Leonard, who is an efficient goalkicker too, spent almost five months playing in New Zealand as part of a scholarship earlier in his development.
Carnegie director of Rugby Chris Gibson said: “The capture of Harry is a really exciting one for us.
“Not only are we getting a very talented, young fly-half but he is also someone who already has experience of playing at the highest levelling and excelling in the Heineken Cup.
“Importantly, he possesses all the characteristics we look for in a player off the pitch as well and he is very much committed to our ongoing development as a club.”
The 27-year-old Doherty, meanwhile, has scored 34 tries in 70 appearances during two spells for Leeds.
And Gibson admitted: “His try-scoring record speaks for itself.
“David is an extremely popular member of our squad and his attitude on and off the pitch is first class so we are delighted he has agreed to a new contract.”
Furthermore, Charlie Beech – the Bath prop on loan at Leeds – has turned down the chance to move to other Premiership clubs to sign permanently with the West Yorkshire club.
The 26-year-old, who has previously played at Northampton and London Wasps, has had a big impact since joining earlier this season and has now agreed a two-year contract.
The continued recruitment drive has left head coach Jimmy Lowes’ squad in good shape, not just for this season but through until 2016.