ENGLAND ACADEMY stand-off Callum McLelland will make his long-awaited debut for Leeds Rhinos in tomorrow’s final pre-season game at Featherstone Rovers.
The former Castleford Tigers youngster joined Rhinos from Scottish rugby union side Edinburgh last summer, after the transfer deadline.
I am very impressed with him in training, he looks very exciting there.Dave Furner on Callum McLelland
He trained with Leeds at the end of the campaign without being eligible to play and has been a full-time member of the squad since the first day of pre-season.
The 19-year-old played for Yorkshire and England against the touring Australian Schoolboys last autumn, but was hampered by an ankle injury earlier this month and tomorrow will be his first appearance for Leeds.
Coach Dave Furner believes McLelland, who is number 23 in Rhinos’ squad, has a long-term future in Betfred Super League and said: “He needs game time and I think he will be keen.
“I am very impressed with him in training, he looks very exciting there.
“From what I have seen, he is a good prospect.
“He has been opposing against the top squad, players who have played first grade and handled that no problems.”
Tomorrow is Rhinos’ fifth pre-season fixture after wins over Wakefield Trinity, Doncaster and Coventry Bears and last Sunday’s narrow loss to Castleford Tigers.
Rhinos will send a team to Hunslet next Sunday – the day after their Super League opener at Warrington Wolves – and could also arrange a hit-out against Keighley Cougars.
None of the players on duty against Castleford will feature tomorrow, but Leeds’ squad includes 10 full-time players, among them Ashton Golding, Josh Walters and Jack Ormondroyd who played for Rovers on dual-registration last week, with the rest coming from the academy.
“It’s guys who need some game time,” Furner said of tomorrow’s squad.
“Chev Walker is going to look after the team so I can have a look at some of our academy players and some of our top-squad players as well.
“It’s about game time for them and obviously Featherstone want a good hit out as well.”
Furner is keen to develop Rhinos’ youngsters and reckons playing against men will be valuable experience for tomorrow’s under-19s contingent.
“It will be interesting to see [how they get on],” he added. “Rob Burrow and the academy coaches have been preparing for this and I think it will be a good marker for them as well.”
Rovers are also under a new Australian coach, Ryan Carr. Furner said: “Ryan was the 20s coach at Souths the first year I was there.
“He went from there to the [Mount Pritchard] Mounties.
“I know Ryan and I think he will do a very good job.
“He’s a very passionate, very good young coach and I think they’ve done a very good job there, Featherstone.
“I met with Ryan and they really want to establish the relationship between Leeds and Featherstone, which is very handy.”