Leeds Rhinos have today confirmed that ex-captain Kevin Sinfield MBE has been appointed as the club’s first ever Director of Rugby.
In a change to the leadership structure at Leeds following the sacking of Brian McDermott earlier this week, Sinfield has been brought in from his role of rugby director at the RFL and will be in charge of team selection, preparation, performance and results of the team.
Sinfield will take his first training session with the players today as they prepare to take on Castleford Tigers at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle on Sunday afternoon.
He will work alongside another ex-Rhino James Lowes, who left his role as Yorkshire Carnegie’s head coach earlier this year, after he was made the new first team coach on a full time basis.
As well as being the Director of Rugby, Sinfield will also take on a number of Chief Executive Gary Hetherington’s roles within the club as part of the shake up to the structure. He will also continue to be a part of the RFL’s England Performance Unit until his contract runs out at the end of 2018.
Sinfield left Leeds at the end of the 2015 season after completing a historic treble, bringing to an end a professional rugby league career that began in 1997. In his playing days with Leeds, he won 7 Grand Finals, 3 World Club Challenges, 3 League Leaders’ Shields and 2 Challenge Cups, as well as picking up the Golden Boot in 2012 when he was named the best player in the world.
He returns almost three years after his departure with Leeds sitting ninth in the table and in danger of missing out on a place in the Super 8’s.
On his appointment, Sinfield told the Rhinos website: “I am delighted and honoured to be offered the chance to return to my club. To follow on from Brian McDermott is a huge challenge but one I am excited about. Brian will be remembered as the most successful coach the club has ever had and his record speaks for itself. I enjoyed playing under him and our task now, as a club, is to take the legacy he has helped to nurture and move it forward with a new generation of players.
“We have a group of extremely talented players here at the Rhinos but we find ourselves in a hard position at present. However, I know there is a mental toughness within this group to show what they can do. We have four games remaining in the regular season and all the coaching staff will be doing everything possible to make sure we finish the season in the best possible fashion.
“I am looking forward to working with James Lowes again. Jimmy is an excellent coach and one of the most forward thinking coaches in the game and someone who knows this group of players well”.
Gary Hetherington added: “Our challenge at the start of the week was to address the short term problem for the rest of the season and also ideally strengthen our structure for the future. There were three key areas that were under scrutiny: our senior management structure with myself as Chief Executive for the past 22 years working alongside the head coach on player retention and recruitment, our coaching team with regards our performances, and our players. The appointments today reflect change in two of those three areas.
“After an absence of two and half years, we welcome Kevin Sinfield back home to the Rhinos. He will have responsibility for all rugby matters including team selection, preparation, performance and results of the first team. He will handle all first team player promotion, retention and recruitment moving forward and oversee our coaching staff management and appraisal. Kevin will also have control of the vital link between our academy and the first team working with Head of Academy Coaching Rob Burrow.
“Some of my duties have been transferred to Kevin and with the departure of Brian McDermott we have a new look first team coaching set up until the end of the season.
Kevin will oversee his first training session this afternoon ahead of Sunday’s Betfred Super League game at Castleford Tigers and we look forward to the start of a new era with two big local derbies against the Tigers and then back at Emerald Headingley next Friday against Wakefield”.
Sinfield and Lowes have four games of the regular season remaining to try and secure a top eight place for the defending champions, while they also have a Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington coming up in a month’s time.
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