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Birth of rugby in Leeds to be marked

A service to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of rugby in Leeds, will be held today at Leeds Minster.

Both Leeds' main rugby teams play at Headingley Stadium Credit: Press Association

Expected to be among the congregation is the Leeds Rhinos first team squad , including new Aussie signing Adam Cuthbertson, who only arrived in the UK on Thursday evening.

Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott and England forward Jamie Jones Buchanan will speak at the service. The event will also remember the city's players who lost their lives in the First World War.

Kevin Sinfield honoured at Buckingham Palace

Kevin Sinfield is the most successful captain in Leeds Rhinos' history Credit: PA

Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield has dedicated his MBE honour to his club following an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The sportsman is the most successful captain in Leeds Rhinos' history, leading them to six Grand Final victories in the last decade, three World Club Challenge triumphs and victory in the Challenge Cup this summer after six final defeats since 2000.

I would like to accept it on behalf of the club, really. So many people played a part in the success, over the last 10 years in particular. For me to get recognised is very humbling but like I said, I think it represents the club, all the players, our staff and the fans - it's been a great place to work and play for the last 10 years.

– Kevin Sinfield


West Yorkshire derby for Peacock testimonial

Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls are to play each other in the New Year to honour Jamie Peacock, who played for both the West Yorkshire clubs.

West Yorkshire derby for Peacock testimonial Credit: Press Association

The game will be on 25 January at Headingley stadium and could be the only time the clubs meet this season following the Bulls' relegation to the Championship.

Peacock won three Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups and two world club titles between 1999 and 2005 with Bradford before moving to his home town club in 2006. At the Rhinos he has continued his incredible run of success with five more Grand Final wins, two World titles and last year's Challenge Cup Final win.

As the last pre-season game before the Rhinos begin their Super League campaign, Head Coach Brian McDermott is expected to name a strong side.

Sutcliffe signs 3-year deal with Rhinos

Emerging half-back Liam Sutcliffe has signed a new three-year deal with Leeds.

Emerging half-back Liam Sutcliffe has signed a new three-year deal with Leeds. Credit: Press Association

The 19-year-old made his first-team breakthrough in the just-ended season, making 26 appearances and winning the Challenge Cup along the way.

The former Hunslet amateur is seen as one of the long-term successors to the current creative trio of Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire and Kevin Sinfield, who have formed the backbone of Leeds' era of success.

All have been mainstays over six title wins but - at 32, 31 and 34, respectively - will not be around for another decade and chief executive Gary Hetherington has spoken of a need for some continuity beyond the club's older heads.

As soon as Gary said the club would like to offer me a longer deal, I was more than happy to sign.

I grew up dreaming of playing for the Rhinos and there is no other club I want to play for. I liked the comments Gary made about building a squad for the future around our young players and that does give us a boost.

The squad will have a period of transition over the next few years and for all the squad to know the vision for us as a group is both reassuring and acts as motivation for us to carry on the great traditions of success over the last decade.

– Liam Sutcliffe

Liam has already shown he has all the qualities needed to succeed at the Super League level. He is still developing his natural game, but we saw last year that the foundations are definitely there.

– Brian McDermott, Leeds Rhinos coach

Leeds front rower signs four-year deal

Leeds Rhinos have given a new four-year contract to prop Brad Singleton, the man they believe can step into the shoes of Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai.

Leeds Rhinos have given a new four-year contract to prop Brad Singleton Credit: Press Association

The 22-year-old Barrow-born Singleton is set to gain more game time in 2015 following the departure of Ryan Bailey and Ian Kirke and - with Peacock and Leuluai both due to retire in 12 months' time - is expected to become a key front rower with the Rhinos for years to come.

Leeds coach Brian McDermott said: "Brad has been around the first team for a number of years now but you can be guilty of forgetting that he has only just turned 22.

This season is a great opportunity for him to kick on with his career and show his worth to the squad.

He certainly has the abilities to succeed and now, with a long-term contract, hopefully he has the confidence to put that into practice and be a key part of the team next season.

– Brian McDermott, Leeds Rhinos coach

Singleton, who has been given a top-20 squad number, is excited by the challenge presented to him.

From an outsider's point of view, it is there for me. I have been here long enough and this is what I always wanted so it is up to me to grab this opportunity with both hands.

– Brad Singleton


Rhinos rule-out Ryan Brierley bid

Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has ruled out the possibility of the club signing Leigh Centurions’ playmaker Ryan Brierley.

Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington says the club have no interest in signing Leigh's Ryan Brierley Credit: Press Association

Speculation had been mounting the Rhinos were preparing a bid for Brierley, who led the Championship for tries with 36 last season.

However, Hetherington says that the club are not looking for a new halfback.

The six-time Super League champions insist their policy has always been to develop and reward from within rather than sign from elsewhere.

Hetherington told the club’s official website: "I can categorically state that we have no interest in signing Ryan Brierley from Leigh Centurions.

"I can categorically state that we have no interest in signing Ryan Brierley from Leigh Centurions.

“The players' agent has contacted us to make us aware that Ryan wishes to join us but we are not looking to sign a half back as we have four top-class options in that position with Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Liam Sutcliffe for next season already and an outstanding prospect in our academy in Jordan Lilley.

“It is inevitable that we get linked with players through the media and I can assure our fans that, in almost every case, the rumour has no foundation.

“I have spoken to Centurions head of rugby Derek Beaumont and reassured him that we are not in the market for his player or any other half back for that matter. Our priority is to develop players through our ranks.

“We have always operated on a policy of reviewing players annually and elevating their contract to recognise the improvements they have made rather than when their contracts are due to expire and that is very much our focus at the moment rather than bringing players in from other clubs.”

Ian Kirke leaves Leeds for Wakefield

Ian Kirke has become the second long-serving front-row forward to leave Leeds in under a week after joining Super League neighbours Wakefield.

Ian Kirke leaves Leeds for Wakefield Credit: Press Association

The veteran prop, who turns 34 in December, has signed a 12-month deal with the Wildcats, where he will join former Leeds team-mates Ali Lauitiiti, Nick Scruton and Paul McShane.

The sudden departure of the 6ft 5in, 17st Kirke, who was released from the last year of his contract with Leeds, follows closely on the heels of that of Ryan Bailey, who joined Hull KR on a two-year deal last Friday.

Ian will add size and experience to our pack and will make us a better team. His professionalism will rub off on the youngsters and improve their performances. Our forward pack has genuine competition for places and pre-season has reflected that so far. I'm delighted to welcome him to the team.

– James Webster, Wildcats coach

Kirke, who turned down the chance to join the Wildcats three years ago, was in the Leeds team that lifted the Challenge Cup in August and has also won five Grand Final rings during a nine-year career with the Rhinos in which he made 214 appearances.

I will always be grateful to the Rhinos for giving me the chance to play in Super League having been spotted at York. I have been fortunate to be involved in finals every year I have been at the club and that is something that I will remember fondly. There are a few familiar faces at Wakefield which will hopefully make the transition that bit easier. I have spoken to James Webster and I was impressed by his plans for the team. It will be strange to play against Leeds next season, I have a lot of good mates at the club but I am sure I will get over that as soon as the whistle goes. It is good to get my future resolved quickly so that I can get a full pre-season with the Wildcats. Leeds are an ambitious club they want to kick on for the future and that means that players like Brad Singleton and Josh Walters deserve the chance to get more game time. The club have been honest with me about that and, whilst there was an option to stay, hopefully by moving I will get the chance to play more consistently which will benefit everyone.

– Ian Kirke
Departures suggest Rhinos' coach Brian McDermott could be ready to move in the transfer market Credit: Press Association

The Rhinos' decision to release two of their experienced forwards and allowback-rower Chris Clarkson to join Widnes on a season-long loan suggests a plunge into the transfer market is imminent.

Their only signing for 2015 so far is Australian prop Adam Cuthbertson, who is joining them from Newcastle Knights, but they have been linked with a move for ex-Wigan and England forward Lee Mossop, who endured an injury-hit first season in the NRL in 2014 with Parramatta.

Ian Kirke has been a fantastic servant for the club and defied those doubters that said a player from the lower leagues could not succeed at the higher level. Ian has not only survived but thrived in Super League. He leaves with our best wishes and I am sure he will do a fantastic job for James Webster and Wakefield next season.

– Brian McDermott, Leeds Coach

Rhinos' Ryan Bailey moves to Hull KR

Hull Kingston Rovers have snapped up Leeds Rhinos forward Ryan Bailey on a two-year contract as the club continues to bolster its squad for the 2015 season.

Bailey leaves Leeds Rhinos for Hull KR Credit: Press Association

A former England and Great Britain international, the prop is one of the most decorated players in Super League having won six Grand Finals, three World Club Challenge titles and one Challenge Cup with the Rhinos.

I’ve achieved a lot of things at Leeds over a 14-year period but I’m ready for a new challenge at Hull KR.

We’ve got a big game at the start of the season against Leeds and that will be a perfect way to hopefully make my debut. I know from experience that the ground is a daunting place to go to, it’s tough for opposition teams and we’ve got to make the most of that.

I know the ins and outs of all the players at Leeds so hopefully I can pass on a few things to Chezzy and we can get a win first game of the season to get us up and running.

– Ryan Bailey

Making his Super League debut for Leeds at the age of 18 in 2002, Bailey has gone on to rack up more than 300 appearances for his hometown club and was granted a testimonial last season for his service to the Headingley side.

Ryan is a fantastic signing and an important one for the club.

With Justin Poore retiring, we lost a lot of experience there and a bit of grunt up front and that’s what Ryan brings to the table. He has a wealth of experience at Super League level and also in big games.

He’s a great athlete, a good trainer and a wonderful player. He gives the impression that he’s a player who plays to the boundaries of the rules at times but he’s aggressive and that’s what you need in a front rower sometimes.

– Willie Poching, New Assistant coach

Rhinos secure Watkins on long-term contract

Leeds Rhinos have confirmed that England centre Kallum Watkins has agreed a new five year contract with the club.

Kallum Watkins agrees five-year contract Credit: Press Association

The 23-year-old centre has played his entire career at Headingley Carnegie having emerged from the club’s Academy as a teenager. He helped England to victory over Samoa in the opening game of the Four Nations in Brisbane last weekend with a try in the 32-26 win, his seventh try in nine appearances for his country.

His new contract will keep him at the Rhinos until at least the end of the 2019 Super League season. He has scored 72 tries in 128 appearances for the Rhinos since making his debut back in April 2008.

I never wanted to play for any other club than Leeds and I am pleased we have been able to agree a new deal that keeps me here for the future. I have got a young family and the chance to be part of this team as we develop over the next few years is something I am very excited about. The Cup Final last year was very special and it has whetted the appetite for what is to come in 2015. We were all disappointed that we could not get back to Old Trafford last season but I am sure that will drive us on in pre-season to make sure we are ready to go one better in next season. We have got a tremendous group of players at the Rhinos and a great coaching team and together I think we can achieve even more over the next few years. The last decade has been an incredible time for the Rhinos and it has been special to be part of that. Our challenge is now to build on that and continue that period of success in the years to come.

– Kallum Watkins

Kallum’s contract is a significant announcement for the Rhinos and for the England team as well ahead of this weekend’s crucial clash with Australia. To have our best young talent committing to not just Rugby League but Super League as well, is a major boost to our game and one that should not be underestimated. A player as talented as Kallum will inevitably be coveted by the NRL and Rugby Union however his determination to be part of the Rhinos future is something that I am sure will get all our supporters excited.

– Chief Executive Gary Hetherington
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