Smith wins contract extension at Rhinos

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The Independent Online

Tony Smith, who coached Leeds to their first title for 32 years two weeks ago, is to stay on for an extra year as their coach.

Tony Smith, who coached Leeds to their first title for 32 years two weeks ago, is to stay on for an extra year as their coach.

Smith was recruited from Huddersfield last year on the basis that he would do two years in the job before handing it back to his predecessor, Daryl Powell. But his outstanding success last season, when the Rhinos led Super League by a record nine points at the end of the regular season and went on to beat Bradford in the Grand Final at Old Trafford, has forced a rethink.

Smith will now coach the side until the end of the 2006 season, before standing down for the delayed return of Powell.

"It's a logical move," said the club's chief executive, Gary Hetherington. "Tony and Daryl have contributed so much to what has been an outstanding year and we are very confident that our future is in good hands."

Smith, who had described himself as "perfectly comfortable" with the original arrangement and has long-term plans to coach at first grade level in his native Australia, nevertheless welcomed the extension.

"Things have gone very well and I'm pleased and honoured to be staying on for another two years," he said. "The team has so much potential."

Powell, currently Leeds' director of coaching as well as Ireland's coach, also declared himself happy with the change.

"I'm naturally looking forward to coaching the Rhinos first team again, but Tony has done such a great job it makes sense to leave things in place," he said.

The England coach, Karl Harrison, has made three changes in his side to play France in Avignon in the European Nations Cup, with Lee Greenwood, Stuart Jones and Richard Whiting rested after playing in the victory over Russia in Moscow last weekend.

The Leeds winger Mark Calderwood, and St Helens' Jon Wilkin, who will play stand-off, come into the starting side, with the Huddersfield full-back, Paul Reilly, in line to make his international debut from the bench.

England, who need only to draw to qualify for the final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington next Sunday, found a familiar face in Avignon when the former Newcastle and Spurs player, David Ginola, was pressed into service as their interpreter.

The former Widnes centre, Dan Potter, has left promoted Leigh to join York in National League Two.