New pack signing likely to fill dual role with the Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos' Adam Cuthbertson.
Leeds Rhinos' Adam Cuthbertson.
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AUSTRALIAN forward Adam Cuthbertson’s versatility and experience will be vital for Leeds Rhinos next season, predicts coach Brian McDermott.

Cuthbertson was due to start today’s Tetley’s Festive Challenge derby against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the front-row. But he has also played hooker, second-row and loose-forward in Australia’s elite NRL.

Cuthbertson was packing down alongside Kylie Leuluai today, but Rhinos have another frontline prop in Jamie Peacock and McDermott hinted he could use all three in the same starting side next term.

“He is a middle man,” said McDermott of Cuthbertson, who is 6ft 2in tall and weighs more than 17st.

“This is where the game has developed. Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors) is probably as much of a loose-forward as you are going to get in today’s game.

“He is a big man and yet can play with the ball and use his hands and a fair bit comes through him.

“But then you will have a loose-forward who is a straight up and down man – quite often I played Ian Kirke or Ryan Bailey there, who are metre-gainers and all the football will come from somewhere else.

“But Cuthbertson could do both of those. He is a prop but he would not look out of place at loose-forward, where he would not be quite as restricted. He has a good pair of hands, he absolutely can play.”

Cuthbertson began training at the start of this month and McDermott said he is pleased with the way his only new signing has adapted to life at Leeds.

“He has settled in really well,” said McDermott of the 29-year-old, who played for Manly Sea Eagles against Rhinos in the 2009 World Club Challenge and has also had spells with Cronulla Sharks and St George-Illawarra Dragons.

“He has been under some good coaches and in some good systems. He has been a good performer in every team he has played in.

“I wouldn’t quite call him the full package, I wouldn’t quite say he is the complete player, but he is certainly beyond that development stage. He is a senior player – he was a senior member of the NRL, he has played a lot of games and he brings a lot of knowledge with him, which we have already benefited from.”

Cuthbertson, on a four-year contract, has confirmed he is interested in pressing for England selection. Though born in the Sydney area, his father is from Warrington and he is likely to apply for a United Kingdom passport during his spell at Rhinos.