McClennan says England switch was best decision of his career

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The Independent Online

Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McClennan says moving to England from New Zealand was one of the best decisions he has ever made.

McClennan, who is in his third season in charge at Headingley, has experienced more than his fair share of success during that time at a club he believes is "the best" on the planet.

In his first year, the Rhinos lifted the World Cup challenge with victory over Melbourne Storm and then went on to edge out St. Helens in the 2008 Super League Grand Final. 12 months later, the two sides met again for the same prize and again it was McClennan's men who came out on top.

He said: "I love here, it's been fantastic at what I believe is the best club in the world. It's a well-run club with great people. I live in Leeds and the Yorkshire people couldn't be any friendlier. My family are here with me and the footy is great as well so I can't complain."

"New Zealanders and the English people are pretty similar and I think that's why people from the UK settle well in New Zealand and versa visa, although the weather is a bit different!"

McClennan and the Rhinos are spotlighted in the latest Tryline podcast, our weekly programme on Rugby League, which is available now for download from iTunes and the Independent's website.

The Kiwi speaks at length in this episode about the tight knit family feel at the club and the importance of involving the players' families, particularly those that are thousands of miles away from home, in everything that they do.

He added: "We have worked really well in that area. The wives of the players have a touch rugby team so they can get together on a night and play a sport which the kids can go along to.

"A lot of the overseas imports do team up and have dinner so there's a bit of a support network.

"On game nights, the club provides a room where the children can go in and get out of their mums' hair.

"The big thing that you miss when you are away is family and so what happens is the players collectively become family.

"For myself as a coach, it just means my wife and three children become a lot closer and we do more together than we would have done back home."

Things haven't quite gone to plan on the pitch so far this season for the reigning Super League champions, largely due to an injury crisis which has regularly left McClennan short of key personnel.

The former New Zealand coach is convinced though that their fortunes will soon turn around as they prepare to embark on a busy period starting with two games in five days over Easter against Bradford and Catalans Dragons respectively.

McClennan has also added to his squad this week with the return of Lee Smith following his brief stint in Rugby Union with Wasps, and you can hear all about the move in this latest programme.

Smith said: "I'm going to be classed as probably a failure in rugby union but that wasn't the case at all, it was personal reasons that have brought me back. Wasps were really good with me and it couldn't have worked out better to come back to the Rhinos."

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