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Former Leeds Rhinos man secures new head coach role

To date, very few of the Leeds Rhinos’ golden generation have had success as head coaches. Kevin Sinfield had a brief stint in charge at Leeds, before moving to Rugby Union.

Danny McGuire is assistant coach to Craig Lingard at Castleford Tigers, but it yet to try his hand as a head coach. Matt Diskin has had spells in charge in the Championship but is yet to coach a Super League side.

However, one former Leeds Rhinos man has secured a new head coaching position at a club with major ambitions.

Former Leeds Rhinos man appointed head coach of French side

Leeds Rhinos

Mitch Garbutt. Credit: Imago Images

Mitch Garbutt joined Leeds midway through their 2015 treble-winning season from Brisbane Broncos. The powerhouse forward played a crucial role in their success that year. He was also part of the side which won the 2017 Super League Grand Final.

He enjoyed spells with Hull KR and Toulose Olympique, before joining the St. Gaudens Bears as player-coach. In his first season with the Bears, he guided them into the Elite One play-offs. Now, Garbutt has secured his next head-coaching role.

He will join SO Avignon ahead of the 2025 season. Avignon finished one place above Garbutt’s Bears side in the 2024 season, narrowly missing out on the play-offs. According to Le Dauhpine, Garbutt will replace ex-Catalans Dragons player, Renaud Guigue, at Avignon.

Avignon secure strategic partnership with Hull KR

Hull KR

Mitch Garbutt. Credit: Imago Images

The appointment of Garbutt is part of a wider strategic initiative to grow Rugby League in Avignon. As part of the wider strategy, Avignon President, Younes Khattabi, has revealed plans for a strategic partnership with Super League club, Hull KR.

Khattabi believes the partnership opens the for international collaboration between the two clubs. It also offers the potential for a player development exchange programme between the two clubs.

Garbutt’s existing relationship with Hull KR was a key influencing factor in his selection to takeover as head coach. Alongside his existing knowledge of the French Elite One system.

His appointment heralds an exciting new era at Avignon, and for French Rugby League in general. It may also mark the next step in an exciting coaching career for one of Leeds’ decorated former players.

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