Leeds director of rugby Kevin Sinfield has announced he will leave the Super League club at the end of the season.
The 40-year-old former Leeds and England captain is expected to switch codes by joining Steve Borthwick’s new-look coaching team at Gallagher Premiership club Leicester Tigers.
Sinfield was the Rhinos’ greatest captain in the club’s history, leading them to seven Grand Final triumphs and two Challenge Cup successes in a career spanning 18 years, but has spent the last three years in an administrative role and says the time is right for a new challenge.
Sinfield, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for fund-raising and services to rugby league, said: “This has been one of the hardest decisions of my career.
“It has been a privilege to return to the club and help take us forward into the future.
“When I returned, I always said I would review my role after three years and that my reason for coming back was to help the club.
“The last 18 months have been a huge challenge and the role has changed significantly from the job I first came to do. My position is now further away from performance than I ever thought it would be.
“I love the club and the people I work with but I feel now is the right time for a new challenge.
“As well as the role changing, I have changed through my experiences in the last 18 months both at the club and through my fundraising activities.”
Sinfield, who oversaw Leeds’ Challenge Cup final triumph at Wembley last October, added: “I am proud of our record over the last three years as we have rediscovered the spirit of the Rhinos within this group with a squad of young, talented, homegrown players secured on long-term contracts for the foundations of a new era of success in the years ahead.
“Rugby League has been central to my life since I was seven and I will always consider myself as part of the Rugby League family.
“I am not leaving the sport, I am just doing a different job and I will continue to help the sport wherever I can.”
Oldham-born Sinfield spent his entire playing career at the Rhinos which spanned a golden period in the club’s history from his debut in 1997 through to his final game at the Grand Final in 2015.
As well as being Leeds’ record points scorer, he is the highest scorer in Super League and the third-highest points-scorer in British rugby league history. He also won 14 caps for Great Britain and another 26 for England.
After playing his last match for Leeds in 2015, he had a brief stint in rugby union as a player with the Rhinos’ sister club Yorkshire Carnegie, before being recruited by the Rugby Football League to be its rugby director and returned to Headingley in a similar capacity in 2018.
Sinfield is widely expected to become Leicester’s defence coach, a role currently held by Mike Ford, who is set to join something of an exodus from Welford Road as Borthwick reshapes the club.
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “Like all Rhinos fans, I am extremely disappointed with Kevin’s decision.
“We always hoped he would enjoy a long career with us. I agree the director of rugby role has changed and we did discuss other roles at the club but it is not to be.
“I do understand and appreciate Kevin’s reasons for leaving for a new and different challenge.
“On behalf of everyone at the club, I would like to thank Kevin for the fantastic job he has done over the last three years, in particular the unprecedented challenges over the last 18 months. Undoubtedly, when he leaves the club, he will leave it in a much better position than when he returned.”
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