Aviva Premiership’s latest rugby league convert is excited at the prospect of honing his skills on the big stage for new club Newcastle Falcons.
Former Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats winger Lee Smith, 27, walked through the doors of Kingston Park on Monday morning to join up with his new teammates ahead of this weekend’s Premiership trip to high-flying Harlequins.
And the explosive back, who won three consecutive Super League Grand Finals with the Rhinos coupled with a solid return of seven tries in eight appearances for England, is itching to create an impression in the 15-aside code.
“I’ve always wanted to play rugby union and that ambition has never changed, and with Wakefield agreeing to release me and Newcastle Falcons showing a serious interest in me, I felt it was the right time for me to embark on this exciting new challenge,” Smith told the Falcons official website.
“It’s a massive challenge for me and one that I’m extremely looking forward to – I’ve had a really good first day in training.
“It’s obviously totally different to what I’ve ever experienced before and there is certainly a lot to take in,” added Smith, who averaged a try every two games in more than 150 appearances for Super League giants Leeds.
Smith reveals his discussions with Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards and the presence of ex-rugby league legend Graham Steadman at Kingston Park enticed him to the North East. Defence coach Steadman was head coach at Castleford Tigers for three years before a cross-code switch saw him coach at Ireland and Scotland.
“I met Graham last year when he came to Wakefield to watch a bit of our defensive work and he’s a top fella,” said Smith.
“The only thing is he’s from Castleford down the road and not from the posh area like me,” Smith jokingly added.
Commenting on his new boss Richards, the former recipient of the Harry Sutherland trophy said: “When I spoke to Dean before signing, it was clear to me that he has big plans for the club and I’m delighted to be a part of what he’s trying to achieve.
“I’m just looking to get myself settled as quick as possible and hit the ground running as they say. We’ve got nine games left of the season and then we have a break for pre-season which will be good for me.”
It remains to be seen whether Smith gets his chance this Saturday when the Falcons collide with Quins at the Twickenham Stoop. The Morley-born flyer insists he is more than ready if called upon, saying: “I’ll obviously have to wait and see what the team selection is for the trip to Harlequins, but I’m fresh and I arrive here on the back of a full pre-season with Wakefield and I’m raring to go.
“At the moment it’s good for me to be thrown in at the deep end and the best way to learn the finer parts of the game is by playing games.
“I’m looking to move up here with my family and it’s a lovely part of the world with really friendly people and I’m looking forward to getting settled in.”