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Sinfield returns to Leeds as Director of Rugby

Leeds Rhinos have unveiled Kevin Sinfield as the club’s first ever Director of Rugby.

The former captain will take charge of his first game this Sunday against Castleford alongside former Rhinos player and assistant coach James Lowes, who has been named as the club’s new First Team Coach on a permanent basis.

Sinfield will have a huge bearing on the rugby side of operations, including team selection and recruitment, as well as taking on a number of roles previously performed by chief executive Gary Hetherington.

Since his retirement from playing, Sinfield has been working for the RFL as Rugby Director and will continue his involvement with their England Performance Unit on a one day a week basis until the end of 2018 when his contract runs out.

The 37-year-old is Leeds’ most successful ever captain, winning seven Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups, three World Club Challenges and three League Leaders Shields during his 18-year career with the club.

His services to rugby league were recognised in 2014 when he was awarded a MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

In his 521st and final game, Sinfield made history again to lead the Rhinos to an historic treble in 2015. He finished with 3968 points, including 1832 goals.

Commenting on his appointment Sinfield said, “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.

“I have enjoyed my time at the Rugby Football League and I would like to thank Brian Barwick and Ralph Rimmer for supporting my vision for the international team. I believe the national side are in a position to fulfil their potential under Wayne Bennett and I am happy to continue my work leading into the Autumn series against New Zealand to make sure there is a smooth transition to build on the successful work we have done over the last two years. The chance to re-join Leeds Rhinos was too good an opportunity to miss however in my new position I will continue to support the international game, as Leeds Rhinos have always done.

“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.”

Chief Executive 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.”

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