Rhinos head coach Smith leaves by mutual consent

Former Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith
Rohan Smith led Leeds Rhinos to the Grand Final in his first season in charge [SWPIX.COM]

Leeds Rhinos have parted company with head coach Rohan Smith by mutual consent after their Super League defeat by lowly Hull FC.

The Rhinos slipped to a third reverse in four games on Saturday as the Black and Whites, who had previously won just once all campaign in the league, claimed an 18-10 win.

Australian Smith, 43, had led Leeds to the Grand Final in 2022 after a fine run following his appointment in April of that year.

However, Rhinos could not replicate that showing last season as they missed out on the play-offs with an eighth-placed finish.

Assistant coaches Chev Walker and Scott Grix will lead the team, who sit seventh in the table, in Friday's home game against Leigh.

The Rhinos will be celebrating the life of legendary scrum-half Rob Burrow, who died at the age of 41 with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), before the match and Smith said he did not want ongoing "speculation" about his future to detract from the occasion.

"Friday will be a special night for the club and we wanted to remove the ongoing coaching speculation and distraction," he told the club website.

"Celebrating Rob's life, the great work done by the club and Kevin Sinfield for the MND community and playing well is the focus for Friday.

"I believe this team can still achieve great things and I am proud of the work that the coaching team have done to develop players, especially the next generations."

The Rhinos are just two points off sixth-placed Catalans with 14 games played.

They have a fortnight off after the game with the Leopards for the international break and new sporting director Ian Blease, who started his job this week, says they will use that time to look for a replacement.

"My review of our rugby operation is ongoing and, clearly, the scope of those recommendations will now need to widen with Rohan's departure," he said.

"That process starts now to appoint a new head coach who we believe will be talented and suitable to take the club into a new era."

The Rhinos are the second most successful club in the Super League era with their eight Grand Final wins behind only 10-time champions St Helens.

However, they have not triumphed since 2017 when Brian McDermott guided them to a 24-6 win over Castleford in Burrow's final appearance.

Fan patience had run out for Smith - Analysis

BBC Sport's rugby league correspondent Matt Newsum

Leeds aren't known for making coaching changes lightly but the sense that Smith's time at Headingley had run its course was almost tangible.

Particularly on the terraces where Smith, an intense yet thoughtful coach, was jeered by fans at recent games including the shock defeat by Hull FC which was to be his last in charge.

In some ways he set himself a tough barometer to match with a Grand Final appearance following a remarkable surge of results having taken over from Richard Agar in 2022.

However, the squad overhaul and transition has been difficult and although he was afforded an off-key 2023 season the subsequent struggles this term were not part of the plan.

Smith has not yielded the best of Brodie Croft, who at times has seemed unsuited to the style of play, while injuries - particularly right now where Andy Ackers, Ash Handley and Harry Newman are all out - have hindered progress.

Blease's arrival from Salford this week as sporting director already had tongues wagging as his old coach Paul Rowley at the Red Devils comes with a fine CV.

There will also no doubt interest from overseas, with ex-Parramatta coach Brad Arthur and former Souths boss Jason Demetriou among those seeking employment.

It will be a crucial decision though, as Leeds' fall from the elite on the field is at odds with the progress and size of the club in terms of infrastructure and stadium.