Ahead of a vital game against Catalans this weekend, Rohan Smith spoke to the press today.
Leeds come into the game after a statement win over Wigan and are riding high. The week also saw them secure Justin Sangare and James McDonnell for next season as Smith’s project becomes clearer.
Speaking of which, Smith spoke about why he chose to draft McDonnell in for next season and beyond: “I was actually watching many games on video at the start and I watched a couple of other players in the game and I saw James do a few things that I was impressed with.
“He’s got good leg speed and enjoys the collision. I did a bit of investigating and met him in person – he’s a terrific young man and he’s got terrific potential.
“I think it’s the right mix, we’ve got a lot of experienced players at the back end of their careers with a number of games under their belt.
“The policy is to improve our roster as best we can whilst adhering to salary cap restrictions and previous investments. There will be a few more people coming in at some stage. The roster is always a moving thing.”
So, the development of Leeds’ 2023 roster is still underway but it looks like one man won’t feature as part of it in the shape of Muizz Mustapha despite his try last week. On the young prop, Smith simply said, “We haven’t made Muizz an offer, he is free to explore his options there.”
Mustapha played last week due to a number of injuries and illnesses in the side, but things are looking brighter this week with Smith confirming that the Rhinos are unlikely to lose anyone from last week’s game despite fears around David Fusitu’a whilst two star players could return.
“We’ve got through pretty well,” Smith said, “Fusitu’a got replaced at the back end of the game but he’s trained today and everyone else has got through.
“Austin and Sezer are close and both have participated in training today and we’ll make a call on Friday.”
Big boost for the Rhinos
It’ll be a massive boost if only one of Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer are back this week. If they are both back, it leaves Rohan Smith in a unique position of potentially having to drop an in form player as it would see Richie Myler move to fullback – unless he was the one to miss out – and Zak Hardaker, Liam Sutcliffe and Harry Newman all vying for centre spots.
Still, this is a nice problem to have and one Leeds haven’t had in a long time.
I also feel it’s worth mentioning Mustapha’s impending departure. A player with loads of guts and always willing to work hard, he deserves to play regular rugby somewhere and his departure will hopefully ensure that.
Last but not least, it’s great to know the behind the scenes stuff regarding James McDonnell’s arrival. A smart signing, I’m not surprised that Rohan Smith made the move after researching the player in depth.
It’s the kind of stuff you hear about Premier League teams and their signings and can only be a good sign in terms of further recruitment.