Long returns to Rugby League with Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos have confirmed that former Great Britain international Sean Long, 44, will return to Rugby League with the club as Assistant Coach to Richard Agar from the 2021 Betfred Super League season. 

Wigan-born Long has been part of the coaching team at Gallagher Premiership Rugby Union side Harlequins since July 2019 but will return to the thirteen man code with the Coral Challenge Cup winners. 

Long, who was capped 21 times by his country, began his playing career at Wigan before a brief spell at Widnes ahead of the move to St Helens, where he won every honour in the game. He won five Challenge Cups, four Super League Grand finals and two World Club titles during his 12-year playing career with Saints. He finished his playing days at Hull FC, moving to the KCOM Stadium in 2010 and announced his retirement in August 2011. 

He began his coaching career with Salford in 2011, initially working with Matt Parrish, who he was subsequently assistant coach to with Samoa at the 2013 and 2017 Rugby League World Cups. 

In 2014, Long returned to St Helens as assistant coach to former teammate Keiron Cunningham and then Justin Holbrook before leaving Saints five years later to join Quins. 

Commenting on the appointment Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield said, “We are very pleased to have agreed with Sean to join the club for next season. Sean has a great relationship with Richard Agar having played under him at Hull FC. He is also well known to our group of players. Last winter Sean regularly joined us in pre-season and gave valuable insight to the group and especially our half backs and it is great that we can now bring him in on a full time basis. 

“Because of the Covid protocols in place for next season, our current assistant coach James Webster is not allowed to be part of two club’s training environments so he will solely be at Featherstone Rovers as Head Coach and Sean is a direct replacement for James with Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Chev Walker also part of the first team backroom team. James has been key to our success this season and he will leave with our best wishes and thanks at the end of the season. 

“Sean is vastly experienced and importantly adds to our knowledge pool as a coaching team. In Jamie Jones-Buchanan we have one of the best up and coming thinkers on the defensive side of the game and Sean is very much the equal of that when it comes to attack plus Chev will continue to do an outstanding job in helping our young players transition from the academy to first team,” added Sinfield. 

Looking ahead to joining the Rhinos, Long said, “I am looking forward to working with Richard Agar again after our time at Hull. I have a massive amount of respect for Leeds as a club, they are one of biggest clubs in the world and as soon as I got the call off Kev and Rich, it was a no brainer to join the club.”

Long spent time with the Rhinos squad at the start of the current campaign in their preparations for the 2020 season and he says he has maintained that link throughout the season. He added, “I have kept in touch with Rich over the years, he is a good friend, and he asked me to come in and look at some of the structures he was implementing for this season. I tweaked a few things and the boys really took it on board. I loved getting back on the field and coaching Rugby League.  I know all the boys and I really enjoyed it. I have been watching them throughout the season and how they have implemented those ideas and it has been good to see how Rich has stayed on top of it and the team have gone from strength to strength.

“I am looking forward to working with the half backs at the Rhinos. It is a massive part of what I do. As an ex half back, I want to pass on what I have learnt to them and hopefully we can all get to a better place as a team. Game management, the kicking game and reading defences is something that excites me. Leeds have always had great young players coming through and I am looking forward to developing them but also working with top class talent like Luke Gale, Rob Lui and Richie Myler,” added Long.