Leeds Rhinos confirm signing of rising star James McDonnell from Wigan Warriors

Leeds Rhinos have signed rising star James McDonnell from Wigan Warriors on a two-year contract beginning in 2023.

McDonnell, 22, is a second-row who can also play at centre.

A product of the Wigan St Judes club, he made the first of his four appearances for Warriors in 2020 and has scored five tries in 13 games on loan with Betfred Championship leaders Leigh Centurions this term.

McDonnell described Rhinos as “a massive club” and said: “I was really pleased to accept their offer.

James McDonnell in Super League action for Wigan against Huddersfield two months ago. Picture by Bernard Platt.

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“Working with Rohan Smith was a big pull for me, he is the type of coach I want to learn from.

“I am looking forward to moving over to Leeds and starting a new chapter.

“I came over to Headingley a few weeks ago and Rohan gave me a tour around the stadium, which is world class.”

James McDonnell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

An England academy teammate of Rhinos’ Sam Walters, Harry Newman, Corey Johnson, Muizz Mustapha and Tom Holroyd in a 2018 Test series win over Australian Schoolboys, he also played for England Knights, alongside Holroyd and Leeds’ Morgan Gannon, against Jamaica last autumn.

He added: “The good thing for me is I know a lot of the lads from England camps.

“I am not going blind into a new environment because I have already got some good mates there.

“You can already see the difference Rohan is having on their squad, this is a new start for me and I want to have success with the Rhinos.

James McDonnell played for England Knights against Jamaica at the Jungle, Castleford, last year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“The club has a massive fan base and hopefully we can give them plenty to celebrate.

“Moving away from my home town club was a massive decision.

“It was hard to say no [to staying], but I knew this opportunity was too good to turn down.”

Smith hailed McDonnell as “an impressive young man who will be a great addition to our squad”.

He said: “He knows what we are looking to achieve here in the years ahead and it was good to speak to him about his own hopes and ambitions.

“I am sure he will fit in well with our squad and I look forward to seeing him develop over the next few years.”