Lee Smith has confirmed he is leaving Leeds – and probably rugby league – at the end of this season. The England utility back has told the Rhinos he will not sign another contract and is expected to join Wasps.
"I will have completed seven years at the club at the end of the season and I feel the time is right to move on to a new challenge," said the 22-year-old, who has played full-back, wing and centre for the Rhinos.
Last season, he was man of the match in the Super League Grand Final and earned selection for England's World Cup squad in Australia. The chief executive of Leeds, Gary Hetherington, said Smith's departure – which is hardly unexpected – would give an opportunity to someone else.
"But it is always disappointing when a player decides to leave, especially one like Lee, who has come through the ranks and gone on to win international honours," he said.
Smith is in Leeds' squad at Harlequins today, along with exactly the sort of player who could kick on after his departure – the 18-year-old Kallum Watkins, who scored two tries in the victory over Huddersfield last week.
The Rhinos' three representatives in the England team that thrashed France last weekend – Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock – also return to club duties.
Depending on what happens elsewhere, it is a match which could see Quins vault above Leeds into second place in the Super League. Their current run of five wins in their last six games started with a win at Headingley, so the Rhinos will be forewarned.
The other side playing today who could have a say in these matters is Hull KR, who need to put their recent form slump behind them at the Celtic Crusaders. Rovers are without Stanley Gene, but have Michael Vella back after injury and Ben Cockayne after a one-match suspension against a side that will have grown in confidence thanks to last week's unexpected win over Wigan. The Crusaders add Josh Hannay and Aled James to the side that achieved that result – their first home win in Super League.
The competition breaks new ground today with the Catalans Dragons hosting Warrington in Barcelona. There are encouraging reports that 15,000 tickets have been sold for the first-ever professional game in Spain.
Tomorrow, leaders St Helens are at Bradford, where Dave Halley has signed a new, two-year contract. Halley was loaned out to Wakefield earlier this season, but has made the full-back position his own since his return.
In the Northern Rail Cup, Halifax play Widnes for the right to meet Barrow in next month's final. Barrow beat Featherstone on Thursday night to reach their first final since 1983.Reuse content