Eastmond sets sights on helping Tigers rise to top

FORMER Oldham St Annes rugby league player Kyle Eastmond is hoping to help Leicester Tigers once again become a force in rugby union.

Eastmond, one of an select group of players who have represented England at both league and union, signed for the Welford Road club just before the start of the current campaign.

The 29-year-old, who has a home in Delph, said: “It has been a good move as Leicester is a massive club.

“You don’t realise how huge the club Tigers is in rugby union until you play for them.

“Their fan base is awesome as you see with 20,000 fans at home games on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

“Saracens have dominated English rugby for the last 10 years and Exeter Chiefs are also massively strong.

“We are building our foundations and want our club to build and get back to where we used to be.”

Eastmond looked on his move to Tigers as a new beginning after an injury-plagued two years at Wasps where he was ruled out for nine months through a torn Achilles.

The full back/centre added it was great to be reunited with George Ford, a fellow Oldhamer and former team mate at Bath, while he also knew George’s elder brother Joe.

He explained: “Joe is the same age as myself and I was aware of him when I was growing up as I played for St Annes and he was at Saddleworth Rangers.

“We played against one another at academy level as he was at Bradford Bulls and I was at St Helens.”

Eastmond added he played his best rugby union at Bath who were coached by Mike Ford, George’s father, and he has “great respect” for the family.

He also explained he has been lucky to play union for Bath, Wasps and Leicester, three of the Premiership’s largest clubs.

Eastmond, a former pupil at Parish Church and Radclyffe School, said: “Bath played a big part in my life after leaving Oldham and rugby league.

“In my five-and-a-half years at Bath I learned a lot, both on and off the field.

“It was a big transition as league and union are completely different games and also in terms of mentality and mindset.

“It takes a while to get used, but I am glad I made the change. And the experience of playing both codes has definitely made me a better player.”

With the Six Nations Championship currently under way, Eastmond, who was born at St Mary’s in the centre of Oldham, would like to add to his six England caps.

He said: “Any player wants to represent their country and I am no different.

“It is not in the forefront of my mind as I have not been in the right shape for the last couple of years.

“My priority is to get into shape for Leicester and anything after that would be a bonus.”

Eastmond, played 74 games for St Helens between 2007 and 2011 and represented England four times before switching codes, is also saddened to see Oldham languishing in the third tier of RL.

He said: “Oldham is a big RL town that has produced many players who have gone on to play at the highest level.

“It is disappointing Oldham aren’t at a higher level so we can keep the players in the town.

“Hopefully that will happen one day with Oldham back up in the Super League.”

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