Leeds Rhinos look to fill hole left by Kyle Eastmond's retirement - Kevin Sinfield confident squad will be in a 'good place'
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Eastmond, who penned a two-year contract on March 3, announced yesterday he has retired with immediate effect, after playing only twice for Rhinos.
With Rob Lui having confirmed he will leave the club at the end of this season and Callum McLelland out of contract in November, Luke Gale is the only specialist half-back signed on for 2022.
Richie Myler and Liam Sutcliffe are options to play at stand-off and a decision has yet to be announced on a new deal for McLelland, but director of rugby Kevin Sinfield admitted: “It is fair to say there is certainly a hole there now.”
He said: “We do all believe Sutty has done a really good job when he has filled in for us this year, however, I think long-term it is probably fair to say both Liam and ourselves view him as a centre.”
Rhinos have een aware for some time of Lui’s departure and the process of bringing in a replacement was already underway, but Eastmond’s retirement will make that more urgent.
“This has happened very, very quickly and we have always got our eye on the market.
“That won’t change, but I’d like to think we’ll be in a good place, squad-wise.”
In a departing statement, Eastmond said he had “come to realise the passion to influence the game is no longer on the field”.
The 31-year-old began his career with St Helens, then spent a decade in rugby union with Bath, Wasps, Leicester and England before signing for Rhinos.
He made his debut - and first game for more than a year - against Wigan Warriors on April 15 and also featured in the following week’s defeat at Hull KR, but missed Rhinos’ game at Huddersfield Giants with a hamstring problem and was not selected against Wakefield Trinity last Friday.
Sinfield said Eastmond leaves with Rhinos’ best wishes and praised him for taking a “brave” decision, rather than simply seeing out his contract.
“We had a number of chats with him last week,” Sinfield said.
“Our relationship is really good and honesty has always been the best policy.
More - Agar's agenda“We have given it a go, he has thrown everything at it and it has not worked out.
“If that means we have to cop a bit [of criticism] for it, then so be it, but I think it was all done in the right way and we all had the best intentions.
“Sometimes some things just don’t work.
“I think the way he has handled it has been great; he could have sat here and picked up his money for the next 18 months and made it really difficult for everybody who wanted to see a great player.
“Unfortunately, everybody moves on. My respect for him is really high and we will remain friends through all of it.”
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