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Former Leeds Rhinos star takes on new role as head coach

To date, very few of the Leeds Rhinos’ golden generation have enjoyed success as head coaches. Kevin Sinfield had a brief spell in charge at Leeds before moving to Rugby Union.

Danny McGuire is assistant coach to Craig Lingard at Castleford Tigers, but is yet to try his hand as a head coach. Matt Diskin has had spells in charge in the Championship but is yet to coach a Super League side.

However, one former Leeds Rhinos man has landed a new head coaching position at a club with big ambitions.

Former Leeds Rhinos man appointed head coach of the French side

Leeds rhinos

Mitch Garbutt. Credit: Imago Images

Mitch Garbutt joined Leeds from Brisbane Broncos midway through their 2015 treble-winning season. The powerhouse played a crucial role in their success that year. He was also part of the squad that won the 2017 Super League Grand Final.

He enjoyed spells at Hull KR and Toulouse Olympique before joining St. Gaudens Bears as player-coach. In his first season with the Bears, he guided them to the Elite One playoffs. Now Garbutt has secured his next role as head coach.

He will join SO Avignon ahead of the 2025 season. Avignon finished one place above Garbutt’s Bears side in the 2024 season, narrowly missing out on the play-offs. According to Le Dauhpine, Garbutt will replace ex-Catalans Dragons player Renaud Guigue at Avignon.

Avignon has secured a strategic partnership with Hull KR

Hull KR

Mitch Garbutt. Credit: Imago Images

Garbutt’s appointment is part of a wider strategic initiative to grow Rugby League in Avignon. As part of the wider strategy, Avignon president Younes Khattabi has unveiled plans for a strategic partnership with Super League club Hull KR.

Khattabi believes the partnership opens the door for international cooperation between the two clubs. It also provides the opportunity for a player development exchange program between the two clubs.

Garbutt’s existing relationship with Hull KR was a major influencing factor in his selection to take over as head coach. In addition to his existing knowledge of the French Elite One system.

His appointment heralds an exciting new era at Avignon and for French Rugby League in general. It could also be the next step in an exciting coaching career for one of Leeds’ decorated former players.