Former Saints wing on trial with rugby league side Leeds Rhinos

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Leeds Rhinos are giving a trial to a former Saints wing Josh Gillespie.

Gillespie is set to play his first game of rugby league when Rhinos reserves visit Leigh Leopards on Saturday.

The 23-year-old played four times in rugby union’s top flight with Saints, as well earning five Premiership Rugby Cup appearances.

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Known for his electric pace, he also had loan spells with Bedford Blues and Ampthill and was at Ealing Trailfinders last season.

Josh Gillespie (photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)Josh Gillespie (photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
Josh Gillespie (photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

He is the latest rugby union player to be offered a trial by Rhinos, following in the footsteps of ex-Yorkshire Carnegie, Harlequins and Bath prop Lewis Boyce who trained with the club in pre-season, but was not offered a contract.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Gillespie, who is in his second week with Leeds, said the opportunity came about after his agent sent a highlights reel to Rhinos.

“Luckily, they were willing to give me a go,” Gillespie said.

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“I am here for a month’s trial, I’ll play a few reserves games and see where it goes from there.”

Gillespie was born in Australia, grew up in Singapore and later split his time between Norway, where his parents moved, and England.

He was a pupil at Millfield School in Somerset when he became Saints’ youngest player, aged 18 years and 15 days, making his debut against Wasps in 2019.

“I’ve been a union fan my entire life,” he added. “I’ve seen the odd game (of league) and I recognise a few players.

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"I wasn’t really much into the sport, but when I got the call I started binge watching some games, trying to get up to scratch with the rules.

“It has gone really good so far. The first few days I was just trying to get to know everyone, it was quite overwhelming, trying to get to know all the names.

"I am nearly there with all the players, and the coaches have been really helpful with getting me up to scratch. They know there’s going to be things I don’t know, having not grown up in league, but by the time I got to last Friday I felt really into it and hopefully I am not making too many mistakes.”

Gillespie got his first taste of live Super League at AMT Headingley last Saturday, when he watched Rhinos’ 18-10 win over Catalans Dragons.

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“It was really good, the atmosphere and the Leeds fans,” he said. “I was really impressed by the corporate side as well, how well they are doing.

"It’s really good, the connection the players have with the fans.”

Gillespie’s ultimate aim would be to secure a Super League contract, but he stressed: “It is just a good opportunity. There’s no loss coming here, but it’ll be easier to judge (how he is handling his now code) after the reserve game at the weekend.

“I am a bit nervous, because I don’t know what unpredictable scenarios might happen and I might not know a certain rule, but I will figure it out as I go on.

"I quite like that, going in at the deep end.”