Kyle Eastmond rejected union offers to make league return with Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar firmly believes dual-code England international Kyle Eastmond can be a “major presence” in rugby league again after his surprise switch back to the sport.

It has been a decade since the livewire half-back left St Helens for Bath and – as a centre in union – he has since played for Wasps and Leicester Tigers as well as earning six Test caps.

Eastmond, 31, has signed a two-deal with Leeds who announced the news less than 24 hours after revealing stand-off Rob Lui may miss the first two months of the new Super League season and full-back Jack Walker could miss it all due to injury.

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Eastmond had offers from clubs both in France and in the Premiership to stay in union.

Leeds Rhinos' new signing Kyle Eastmond. Picture: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWPix.com.

Agar said: “It would have been easier and probably more lucrative for Kyle to stay in union so we know he’s come for the right reasons. He knows it’s a challenge but I’m pumped he’s here. He’s star quality; if you are a fan, you can wait for moments of excitement from Kyle.

“He is multi-skilled; he’s the ability to pass the ball short or long off both hands, has an explosive running game and a kicking game we know has only been enhanced playing in union.

“He has the ability to light up what is already a terrific place to play on a Friday night.”

Leeds start against Wakefield Trinity on March 27 with captain and scrum-half Luke Gale battling to be fit in time after pectoral surgery, Lui now sidelined and young half-back Callum McLelland also yet to return to training.

But Agar said: “There’s a lot of conjecture about our team for round one but we want to sustain a presence and challenge this year, next year and the year after.

“It’s not all about getting Galey fit for round one and making sure Kyle is at the top of his game for it. That would be lovely but there’s a bigger picture for us, hence the two-season deal.

“We’re really confident, given his athletic ability, skillset and history in the game, it’s a matter of time – not if – that he becomes a major presence in this sport again.

“He was at the pinnacle of rugby league as a young fella and he decided to take on a new challenge which culminated in facing the All Blacks in Auckland.

“He has never been frightened of taking a challenge on.

“We initially talked about him playing this season and seeing how it all went, but within a day he came back and said ‘I am in and I want to commit for longer than that’.

“That was a massive selling point for us.”

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