Former England A rugby union winger Liam Botham is set to experience life as a rugby league forward.
Former England A rugby union winger Liam Botham is set to experience life as a rugby league forward. The 26-year-old son of cricketing legend Ian Botham has spent the majority of his rugby career with Cardiff and Newcastle among the threequarters, but he is poised to switch to the second row in the 13-man code under new Leeds coach Tony Smith. Botham has joined up with the Rhinos for the start of the new Tetley's Super League season after a stint with sister union team Leeds Tykes and he is anxious to make his mark after having his appetite whetted by a one-off appearance last season. "I've gone fully over to the Rhinos now and we'll make a decision at the end of the season about what happens next," Botham said at the club's media day at Headingley. "All I'm looking forward to now is getting on and giving it a shot with the Rhinos. It's a great-set up and I think Tony Smith is a very good coach. "I've always watched and enjoyed Super League and, to be given an opportunity to play it has given me a new lease of life. I've got a helluva lot to learn but I don't think I could have anybody better to learn from than Tony." It was Smith and Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington who came up with the idea of moving the 6ft, 15st Botham into the pack. "It's something Tony mentioned and other people in rugby league, like Gary Hetherington, think it could be my position," he said. "They know better than I do. It's trial and error and see what happens. "It's just one in from centre but obviously there is a bit of difference and I'll be on a big learning curve the next few months. I'm doing a lot of work with the coaches and video stuff. It's a new challenge and I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait to get my teeth into it." Botham's only previous Super League experience came at Castleford last August when the Rhinos went down 28-20 and he hardly touched the ball. But the experience merely whetted his appetite and he is looking forward with eager anticipation to the start of Super League IX, in which Leeds play London Broncos in the opener at Headingley on Sunday week. "I love it," he said. "I played last Wednesday at the Hull stadium which was fantastic. I loved it to bits. You are in the game all the time, you can't afford to slacken off. "Sometimes in union you can be out of the game for a while if it's a boring, forward-orientated game, but in league everybody spreads the work, especially in this team, where there is a high work ethic. "I'm impressed with the skill and fitness levels and I'm looking forward to the crowds. They are very passionate people. I got a taste of it last year and I couldn't be at a better club than Leeds." Botham believes rugby league has a big advantage playing in the summer and argues that rugby union could learn a lesson from the rival code. "I know they never will but if union played in the summer it would help their game as well because the grounds are harder," he said. "There are good conditions all the time and that is going to bring the skills on."
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