'Leeds is a massive club': James McDonnell's first words after joining Rhinos from Wigan Warriors
Leeds Rhinos have confirmed the signing of talented Wigan Warriors youngster James McDonnell on a two-year contract from 2023.
The 22-year-old - a back-rower with the versatility to play in the centres - has made four Super League appearances since making his debut in 2020.
McDonnell, who represented England Knights at the end of last year, has gained invaluable experience this season during a loan spell with high-flying Championship club Leigh Centurions.
The forward was left convinced about the project at Headingley after discussions with Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith.
“Leeds is a massive club and I was really pleased to accept their offer," he said.
"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.
“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.
"I came over to Headingley a few weeks ago and Rohan gave me a tour around the stadium, which is world class.
"The club has a massive fan base and hopefully we can give them plenty to celebrate."
McDonnell is a product of the Warriors academy after starting out at junior club Wigan St Judes.
Despite that emotional pull, McDonnell was quickly sold on the idea of a move to Headingley.
"This will be my first step outside of Wigan but I am looking forward to moving over to Leeds and starting a new chapter," he added.
“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.
“Moving away from my hometown 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."
McDonnell becomes Leeds' second confirmed recruit for 2023 following the addition of Toulouse Olympique prop Justin Sangare.
“James is an impressive young man who will be a great addition to our squad," said Smith.
"Having met with him, he knows what we are looking to achieve here in the years ahead and it was good to speak to him about his own hopes and ambitions.
"I am sure he will fit in well with our squad and I look forward to seeing him develop over the next few years.”