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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

Featherstone Rovers receive winding up petition

Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Club has confirmed they've received a winding up petition from the taxman, but they say they're confident they'll pay off the arrears later this week.

In a statement issued today Rovers said they'd originally agreed to pay what they owed HMRC in four instalments. Two of those have already been paid, and they say the outstanding balance of £11,000 will be cleared this week.

The club say they're "disappointed" that HMRC have gone public with the winding up petition, when a plan to clear the tax arrears had already been agreed, and earlier payments had been made as promised.

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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.”

England boss left frustrated after Four Nations defeat

England coach Steve McNamara spoke of his frustration after watching his side suffer another heartbreaking defeat that puts them on the brink of elimination from the Four Nations Series.

England Head Coach Steve McNamara Credit: Press Association

There was a touch of deja vu as New Zealand followed up their last-minute 20-18 win in last November's World Cup semi-final with a 16-14 triumph in Dunedin that secures them a place in next Saturday's final in Wellington.

England could yet play the Kiwis in the final but only if minnows Samoa beat defending champions Australia by fewer than eight points in the last round-robin game in Wollongong on Sunday.

Ryan Hall's controversially disallowed try against Australia in Melbourne last Sunday will now come back to haunt England but they will also feel cruelly denied by the woodwork at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, where Gareth Widdop's first two conversion attempts rebounded off the uprights.

"We are frustrated," McNamara told BBC2.

"We were a fingernail away last week and a width of a goalpost on a couple of occasions this week. We've been involved in three tremendous Test matches.

"They're a young group and we've got some young players within that and to apply themselves the way they have done and to attack the competition the way they've done is a credit to them.

"As we speak now, we're still in it with a chance if Samoa win but we're desperately close."

Needing to win by 10 points to make the final, England's task grew after conceding the first of Jason Nightingale's two tries inside two minutes but Hall and fellow winger Josh Charnley scored tries before half-time to keep them in contention.

Manu Vatuvei's try early in the second half made it 16-8 and, although Hall grabbed a second to extend his record try haul to 24 in just 23 appearances, England once more came up just short.

The former Bradford Bulls boss added: "In the first half I felt we started to get control but New Zealand are a very good team and they hit us with a couple of sucker punches.

"We came out firing at the start of the second half, Josh nearly went in at the corner and Ryan Hall got one disallowed.

"We just allowed New Zealand a couple of offloads that allowed them to get to the other end of the field a little bit too easily.

"Both teams were absolutely out on their feet. There was nothing left at the end.

"It was an unbelievable Test match. We'll come back strongly from this."

England spurned an opportunity to secure a draw with a last-minute kick at goal as they went for the all-important win and captain Sean O'Loughlin did not believe the 10-point target played on their minds.

"We were just going out to get the win and, if we were in a good position, we knew we might have to push the ball to get a try but we were just trying to get that win to start off with," O'Loughlin said.

"It's disappointing but credit to our boys. We had a great dig at them but just fell short.

"It's out of our hands now. We wanted to get there by our own right but we've not done that, which is tough at the minute, but we'll just wait and see what happens now."

Hull FC release Jacob Miller

Hull FC have released Australian scrum-half Jacob Miller from the last year of his contract, the Super League club have announced.

FC release Jacob Miller Credit: Press Association

The 22-year-old joined the Black and Whites from Wests Tigers midway through the 2013 season but fell out of favour last year and did not report back for pre-season training this week.

Now Hull have confirmed they have paid off the player, who is expected to stay in Super League and is being linked with a move to Wakefield.

The club have agreed a termination fee with the player who is now a free agent and widely expected to join another Super League club imminently," Hull said in a statement. Hull FC would like to thank Jacob for his contribution to the club over the last 18 months.

– Hull FC

Miller made 24 appearances, including the 2013 Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

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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
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Burgess says Bath will be a "cracking experience"

Former Rugby League star Sam Burgess has signed a three-year-contract with Bath. He says it is going to be an "exciting couple of years" and his first impressions of the city are good.

I had a little walk around the city this morning - it's a beautiful place, it's absolutely stunning. I've not spent a lot of time down here in the south (of England) but for now... what I've seen of it and the people I've met, it's been fantastic. It's going to be a cracking experience I can tell.

– Sam Burgess

You can see Matthias Kurth's full interview with "Slammin' Sam" here:

Lowes: Burgess code switch "huge blow" to RL

Bradford Bulls coach James Lowes believes Sam Burgess's defection to Rugby Union is a major blow to Rugby League.

Burgess, who began his career with the Bulls before moving to South Sydney, where he took the game in Australia by storm, was officially unveiled today by Premiership club Bath.

But Lowes, who has coached in both League and Union, and knows Burgess from his time on the England coaching staff, says he's sure "Slammin' Sam" will be a huge hit:

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