A 'great dude and an asset': Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith impressed by forward duo in new roles

Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith has hailed one of his forwards as a “great dude” and says another is an asset to the team.
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Second-rower James McDonnell and prop Justin Sangare both impressed in unfamiliar roles during Rhinos’ 26-6 win at Castleford Tigers, with the former on the bench and the latter starting. McDonnell made a big impact, including setting up the second of Lachie Miller’s two tries and Smith was “very impressed” with the 24-year-old’s contribution.

“Macca is an outstanding person and player,” the coach said. “It was a tough call to put him back to the bench; he hadn’t done a lot wrong, but we decided to go back to the left-edge we’d practised with for most of February and some of January, which meant Luis Roberts came on to the right wing.

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Leeds Rhinos' James McDonnell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Leeds Rhinos' James McDonnell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Leeds Rhinos' James McDonnell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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"I wanted to keep the cohesion of our right-edge defence there, with James Bentley. There’s not much between Bentley and Macca and a few others - there’s a lot of competition and they need to make the jersey their own. Macca coming off the bench fitted in like he does - he handled the news of going to the bench like a pro’ and came on and played like one. He is a great dude.”

Sangare’s 18 appearances for Leeds last year were all as a substitute and he started only 10 times in 76 games for his previous club Toulouse Olympique. The 26-year-old has played in all seven of Rhinos’ competitive matches this term, starting four of them.

“I thought he played well,” Smith said of the Frenchman’s performance against Tigers. There were a couple of carries when he just decided ‘I’m going to bend the line’ and he did. Defensively he was good.

“He is a kid who has come through the system in France, at Toulouse. He has had some good coaching, but not a lot of tough games as a kid growing up, coming through. He is still very early in his development, he has never really started games so it is something he is trying to do and he has made a decent fist of it.

"He works really hard on his game, he is very diligent and hungry to learn about footy and to be a better player. He’s a great asset for us.”

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