Why James McDonnell swapped Wigan Warriors for Leeds Rhinos

It’s been a big week in Rohan Smith’s Rhinos revolution and one we might look back on as integral to the project he’s developing at Headingley.

Not only did the Rhinos smash Wigan 42-12 in a performance that typified Leeds’ way of playing under Smith, but this week they’ve made two impressive young signings in Justin Sangare and James McDonnell as Smith puts the wheels in motion to make Leeds competitive again.

It should be said that McDonnell’s arrival came out of the blue a touch especially with Leeds having an abundance of second-rows and centres at the club already.

Also, McDonnell was highly thought of especially after his spectacular try for the Warriors last year against Catalans.

So, just how did the Rhinos secure his signature and what made McDonnell choose the Rhinos?

Well, in his interview on the Rhinos website, McDonnell explained his decision: “Leeds is a massive club and I was really pleased to accept their offer. Working with Rohan Smith was a big pull for me. He was the first person I met and had a conversation with and he is the type of coach I want to learn from. This will be my first step outside of Wigan but I am looking forward to moving over to Leeds and starting a new chapter. I came over to Headingley a few week ago and Rohan gave me a tour around the stadium, which is world class.

“The good thing for me is that I know a lot of the lads from England camps so I am not going blind into a new environment because I have already got some good mates there.

“You can see already the difference that Rohan is having on the squad and this is a new start for me and I want to have success with the Rhinos. The club has a massive fan base and hopefully we can give them plenty to celebrate.

“Moving away from my home town club was a massive decision for me. I have loved every minute at Wigan and feel proud and privileged to have played for them. It was hard to say no to the stay but I knew this opportunity was too good to turn down.”

So, it seems Rohan Smith played a massive role in tempting him to Yorkshire as did the size of Leeds as a club.

A player with huge potential and an England Knights international, keep an eye on him in the years to come as he could develop into Leeds’ next star.

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