Leeds Rhinos boss hails 'creative and resourceful' squad

A wartime spirit’ is helping Leeds Rhinos get through rugby league’s coronavirus shutdown, coach Richard Agar says.

Friday, 27th March 2020, 6:00 am

Rhinos have not played since their 66-12 hammering of Toronto Wolfpack 22 days ago.

Team training was cancelled last week and though Rhinos began voluntary sessions in their gym at Kirkstall on Monday, that lasted just one day.

Those workouts had to be halted when the government announced strict new measures, on Monday evening, designed to keep people at home.

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Richjard Agar. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

The players have now all been given fitness programmes to carry out on their own and Agar reckons social media and their competitive nature is spurring them on.

“They are all at home, they have all got bits of equipment to work with and they are being creative and resourceful - there’s a bit of a wartime spirit I think,” the Rhinos boss said.

“They are all keeping in touch with each other, posting their own sessions on WhatsApp groups so they can see what they are all doing.”

Agar insisted motivation has not been a problem.

Leeds Rhinos were due to trangle with Castleford Tigers last night, but the game was their third to fall victim to Covid-19. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

He added: “They are a good bunch and they enjoy each other’s company.

“I think most clubs are the same, we are all doing what we can - being inventive and keeping each other’s spirits up.

“They are all challenging each other, in a way.”

Of Rhinos’ injured players, Agar confirmed: “They’ve been given programmes to follow and equipment they need has been dropped off at their house.

“We dropped a bike off for Kruise [Leeming], for example, so they can keep up with stuff at home.”

While players have been able to keep in shape away from the club, Agar admitted there is “absolutely nothing” coaches and staff can do until they know when rugby will restart.

“We haven’t got a clue when we will be playing or who we’ll be playing next,” he pointed out.

“All our previews for the next two or three weeks were in order.

“We’d had a look at all the teams we were due to play.

“I have watched every game in the comp’ up to now and every NRL game, but I don’t know if there’s a lot more we can do.”

Agar has been keeping in regular touch with his players.

He said: “I’m trying to have a conversation with everyone every week, just to check in and see they are going all right.

“Chris Black [Rhinos’ head conditioner] and Kevin [Sinfield, director of rugby] are doing the same and the coaching staff are all keeping in touch with each other, but there’s not a lot we can be doing physically work-wise.

“We’re trying to keep ticking over, keep spirits high and make sure everyone’s in good shape mentally and physically.

“That’s all we can do at the moment.”

Rhinos have already had three games - home against St Helens and at Catalans Dragons and Castleford Tigers - postponed because of Covid-19.

The sport was shut down last week, initially until April 3, but that has now been extended indefinitely.

Agar admitted he never expected rugby to resume in a week’s time.

“I think there’s all sorts of contingencies being muted, but we just don’t know,” he said of when the season might resume.

“What I’d like to happen is get back as soon as possible.

“I think that’s what we’d all like, but we are dealing with something we have absolutely no control over.

“I don’t think anybody has a clue when we’re going to get to a point where it’s safe to go back.”

Players and coaches will need time to prepare when the green light is given.

Agar said: “I’d like us all to get back as soon as we can and to have two or three weeks’ notice of going back, at this stage.

“But if it runs into months it would be dangerous to just say ‘right, we’re on next week’.”