6th June 2019, 18:00 | Leeds

Agar stands by departing Rhinos captain Watkins

Agar stands by departing Rhinos captain Watkins

Leeds Rhinos interim head coach Richard Agar has paid tribute to the professionalism of Kallum Watkins and insists he remains the right man to captain the team despite his impending departure.

The Rhinos announced earlier this week that the England centre will leave the club at the end of the year.

The 28-year-old has struggled for form after undergoing major knee surgery last summer but Agar is confident he can rediscover his touch and says no thought has been given to relieving him of the captaincy.

“I think he’s leading us exceptionally well,” Agar said. “I think Kallum will be the first to stick his hand up and say he’s not quite where he wants to be at this moment in time.

“But I think we’ve got to take some responsibility for that too and understand that knee injuries and major surgeries can take some time to get over.

“Look at Ben Currie at Warrington, who is one of the best players I’ve ever coached, you can see the effort coming from him but he’s still a bit off re-discovering his absolute best form.

“What you are seeing from both players is lots of professionalism, lots of effort and a strong-minded desire to get back to where they need to be.

“One thing Kallum is doing is leading by example. While he’s a quiet, almost an introvert kid at times, his leadership among the group in what is a tough time while he is trying to get back has been outstanding.

“I could give you a number of examples of him taking it on board himself, even the way he handled things earlier in the week.

“He spoke to the players to explain the thinking behind the announcement and just to re-affirm his commitment to the club for the rest of the year.

“Obviously we’ll need a new captain longer-term but I think he deserves a little bit more respect at this moment in time than to think about stripping the captaincy.

“He is trying very hard and while he is working as strongly as he is doing, it will be sooner rather than later before he recaptures his best form.”

Leeds, who eased their relegation fears with victory over London Broncos in their last match at the Magic Weekend, will be hoping to take another step towards safety when they take on Wakefield Trinity at Belle Vue on Friday night.

But the Rhinos have already lost twice to Agar’s old team this season and the coach is expecting another hard-fought derby, even though Chris Chester’s men have won just two of their last six matches.

“We’re preparing for the best Wakefield team,” Agar said.

In Friday’s other games, Castleford Tigers, with just one win from their last five league games, are at home to a Huddersfield Giants team still fresh from a 55-2 win over Coral Challenge Cup semi-finalists Hull FC at the Dacia Magic Weekend while Hull meet a Salford Red Devils team expected to include second-rower Josh Jones, who will be playing for them next season.