Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers - Kyle Eastmond unlikely to play but could make debut in Challenge Cup tie at St Helens
Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar says it is “unlikely” recent signing Kyle Eastmond will play against Castleford Tigers on Friday.
That means the dual-code international could make his return to rugby league against his former club St Helens in a BBC-televised Betfred Challenge Cup tie eight days later.
Eastmond, who began his career with Saints before switching to rugby union, has not played for more than a year and Rhinos are determined not to rush him.
The ex-Leicester Tigers back has not yet been ruled out of the derby in two days’ time - at Saints’ Totally Wicked Stadium - but Agar said: “It is unlikely he will play this week, so potentially it could be against Saints the week after.”
That would add spice to the showdown between the Challenge Cup holders and Super League champions, but Agar pledged: “We will see how we go because we are definitely not looking too far ahead at the moment.”
The coach confirmed Eastmond is making progress as he adjusts to Rhinos and rugby league, but there is more to work on than physical conditioning.
“The picture is becoming a lot clearer for him,” he said.
“As a half-back, he has got to understand how we play and what we are looking for, how we manipulate space and play on numbers.
“Some of those nuances and trends have definitely changed during his time away and we need a good run of him in the team training, which on a short turnaround this week we are probably not going to get.”
Agar added: “We will play it week by week.
“He has signed a two-year contract and he has missed one game.
“He may well miss two, but we have signed him for the long-term, not the next month.
“It is important when he comes into the team he is good to go, he knows what he is doing and he’s physically in a good condition.
“While his debut is highly anticipated - by us, our fans and the game as a whole - we want to make sure when that moment comes he is as well-prepared as he can be.
“People might be getting impatient, but we feel there’s still a few more boxes to tick.”