Kevin Sinfield will make a sensational cross-code switch this summer to join Leicester Tigers as defence coach, the Premiership club has confirmed.
As exclusively reported by The Rugby Paper earlier this week, and initially mooted on June 6, Sinfield will leave Leeds Rhinos and join Steve Borthwick’s coaching staff.
This comes after Leicester facilitated the arrival of Sinfield by cancelling the contract of defence coach Mike Ford. A decision not believed to affect the future of Tigers fly-half George Ford.
Sinfield has spent the last three years as director of rugby at Leeds Rhinos, a club where he attained legendary status as a player and captain.
“I am really looking forward to this new opportunity in my career and the chance to work with Steve Borthwick, his coaching team and the playing group he is building at Leicester Tigers,” Sinfield said.
“It is a big challenge, but one that I know I am ready for and – after speaking with Steve – I am looking forward to joining the club at this stage on its journey and getting to work in Leicester.
“I am delighted to be able to join a huge club like Leicester Tigers with such a great history and supporter base.”
Sinfield takes over defensive duties from Ford, who had initially held the attack reins at Welford Road, and added that the time felt right for a new challenge.
“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.
“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, home-grown players secured on long-term contracts for the foundations of a new era of success in the years ahead.”
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.
Leeds Rhinos gave a mixed response to the news their director of rugby would be leaving.
“Like all Rhinos fans, I am extremely disappointed with Kevin’s decision,” said chief executive Gary Hetherington.
“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.”