Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith lauds ‘reliable’ ace who ‘everyone wants to play with’

Drew Darbyshire
James McDonnell Leeds Rhinos Alamy

James McDonnell is back for Leeds this week

Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith has hailed the impact back-rower James McDonnell has made on the team since arriving at Headingley.

The Ireland international has made an impressive start to his Rhinos career, making 15 appearances since joining from his hometown club Wigan ahead of this season.

Speaking in his press conference ahead of Sunday’s trip to Salford, Smith admitted McDonnell had probably played a bit more this season than he initially anticipated but has been very impressed by the promising 23-year-old.

“From my first meeting with James I felt a humble confidence in him,” Smith said.

“He’s a hard working guy that does whatever he can for the team.

“He’s had some big moments that have been better than just hard working, he’s got some skill and real ability to create in attack but his work rate and his complimentary nature in defence has really supported that right edge.

“When we’ve played well, he probably hasn’t had the accolades but he pretty much plays the same every week no matter what the team performance which is what other players want, they want to know what their team-mates are giving them and Macca typifies that.

“He’s a reliable bloke that everyone wants to play with.”

Leeds Rhinos boss provides update on player retention

McDonnell linked up with the Rhinos on a two-year deal from Wigan, so he is under contract until at least the end of next season.

But with Leeds recently announcing a number of longer-term contract extensions, could McDonnell be the next?

“We’re working through a bunch of extra extensions,” Smith said when asked if McDonnell could possibly earn an early contract extension.

“And for those people that are going to be here long-term, it’s important that we secure them and get them to feel like Leeds is home.”

The Rhinos face Salford Red Devils at the Salford Stadium in Round 18 of Super League at the Salford Stadium on Sunday afternoon, 3pm kick-off.

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