Kyle Eastmond reflects on Leeds Rhinos debut against Wigan Warriors and says he'll be better for the game time

Leeds Rhinos' newest recruit Kyle Eastmond says he is relieved and pleased to have got his long-awaited debut out of the way and expects to be better for the experience.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 16th April 2021, 11:45 am

The half-back played all of Rhinos’ 19-6 loss to Wigan Warriors two days ago, marking his return to rugby league after a decade in union.

Eastmond admitted there was some ring rust and his match fitness will improve, but insisted it was a priceless learning experience.

“I’ve not played for over 12 months so there was always going to be a bit of match fitness and sharpness [lacking],” said the 31-year-old whose previous game was for Leicester Tigers before the first coronavirus lockdown.

Kyle Eastmond during Thursday's game. Picture by Alex Whitehead/

“I felt fine going into the game - the team have really supported me and the coaching staff, we talk about the game and look at some video together and things like that.

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“I felt okay, the main thing is being out there on the field and I reckon I learned more out there in that one 80 minutes than I have in the last six weeks.”

Eastmond now has something to review and reckons that will help his transition back into the 13-a-side game.

“I knew I needed to get that under my belt,” he added.

“I know there’s some things I was rusty on, I could feel it as I was going, but I needed to get this one under my belt so I can look back and I’ll be able to brush up on a few things.

“I feel relieved I have got something to go back on and prepare myself for.

"Training’s not really any good to me, because I feel I can do that, no problem.

“For me, it’s about real action and it gives me something to go back on, strip it down and start really working.”

Of what he learned in his first Super League game since 2011, Eastmond said: “Just the way teams are now playing compared to when I last played rugby league.

“It’s not massively different, but I get what they are doing now in terms of their attack; that’s something I learned and also the last tackle finishes, from where I’ve been the last nine years it is very different - where you position yourself to kick a ball and stuff like that.”

The Oldham-born former St Helens pivot took “a couple of bangs, nothing serious” during the match, but said he had expected the physical aspect to be worse than it actually was.

Thursday’s game was Leeds’ third successive defeat, all with a host of first-choice players missing, but Eastmond felt they “competed hard, against a very good Wigan team”.

More - Leeds Rhinos 6 Wigan Warriors 19 - Coach Richard Agar’s verdict on home defeatHe said: “I thought we had a real good effort, a lot of young lads stood up, especially the guys in the middle.

“There’s plenty for us to work on and improve on because for a large period of the game we were well in it and for long periods we were on top in the first half.”

Assessing what Rhinos need to do to improve, Eastmond noted: “In the first half I reckon we could have been better on our last tackle plays and maybe just adapting in the second half to what they were giving us, maybe adapting the way we were playing to try and get another score.

“That’s something we will improve on.”

Rhinos applied pressure, particularly in the first half, but failed to challenge Wigan on the last tackle.

“I think that’s something the whole spine would like to control a bit better and it’s something I really want to get involved in,” Eastmond conceded.

“But it was my first game and trying to find my way back into the right positions at the right times, it was always going to be along those lines.

"It will improve.”

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