Kyle Eastmond - former rugby union star reveals why he joined Leeds Rhinos in first interview since returning to rugby league

Leeds Rhinos is the “right place with the right people”, star signing Kyle Edmond insists.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 4th March 2021, 10:50 am

Rhinos sprang a major surprise yesterday when they announced Eastmond has joined them on a two-year contract.

The Oldham-born half-back had an impressive career in rugby league with St Helens and England before switching codes, aged 21, to play rugby union for Bath a decade ago.

He was capped six times by England and also had spells with Wasps and Leicester before becoming a free-agent last summer.

New signing Kyle Eastmond visited Rhinos' changing rooms at Headingley for the first time on Wednesday. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos.

Eastmond revealed he had options to play union in the Premiership or France, but feels the time is right for a return to league and reckons Leeds is the club that will suit him best.

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“At this stage in my career, the most important thing for me was to get to an environment where some people trust me and believe in me and want me to do well,” the 31-year-old said.

“Regardless of what’s on the table elsewhere, this move is about coming to the right place, with the right people.

Kyle Eastmond, of St Helens, tangles with current Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield during a Super League clash in 2010, watched by Jamie Jones-Buchanan, second right, who is now a Leeds assistant-coach. Picture by Mark Bickerdike

“Luckily enough I got this opportunity and I am taking it.”

Eastmond began his rugby career with Oldham St Annes before signing for Saints and admitted he has missed the “honesty and integrity you get with rugby league players and staff and clubs”.

More - Kyle Eastmond - Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar predicts former rugby union ace will shine on return to Super League

He said: “That is massively important to me and it’s something that helps me on the field, once I understand I have got that infrastructure around me.

“That is probably the biggest thing I am looking forward to being around again, with some people with a lot of integrity and that I can trust.”

Eastmond was a centre in union, but will revert to the halves - where he played his best rugby for St Helens - at Rhinos.

Leeds have major injury concerns in that department, with Luke Gale and Callum McLelland both racing against time to be fit for Betfred Super League round one - in 23 days’ time - and Rob Lui ruled out for up to three months.

“It is my natural game, to be on the ball and be involved in the game,” he said of playing in the pivots for Rhinos.

“I like to have runners around me, allowing me to go to the line and make decisions - whether that be run, pass or kick.

“I am looking forward to it, it is exciting.”

Eastmond was coached by Leeds boss Richard Agar in the England academy set-up 15 years ago.

He also played alongside Rhinos’ assistant-coach Sean Long at Saints and director of rugby Kevin Sinfield for the full Test side.

He said: “Kev played a big part in this.

“The way Kev and the Leeds Rhinos staff went about making this happen was massively important to me.

“I appreciate that and that’s one of the major reasons why I came here.”

Eastmond, who scored all Saints’ points in their 2009 Grand Final loss to Leeds, feels he is a better player now than when he changed codes the first time.

“The maturity I come back with now puts me in a different situation to when I left,” he stated.

“I left the game as somebody who had ability and had achieved some things, but I almost feel like I am coming back with a lot more experiences, from different environments.

“Of course, I have learned another game as well, which is important, but personally the growth I’ve had over the last nine years is a major thing.”

Of his time in union, Eastmond stressed: “I am proud of what I did.

“I feel like I have achieved my goals of what I set out to do.

“Now I need a new challenge and that is a good thing.”

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