David Furner: Leeds Rhinos sack head coach after 14 Super League games

David Furner
Leeds lost seven of their first eight Super League games this season under David Furner, but had won three of their past six

Leeds Rhinos have sacked head coach David Furner, who had been in charge for only 14 Super League games.

Leeds are third-from-bottom of Super League after just four league wins this season - Furner's first in charge.

The 47-year-old moved to the role during the winter, having been assistant at South Sydney Rabbitohs.

As a player, the Australian made 47 appearances as a forward for Rhinos and was part of the side that won the Super League Grand Final in 2004.

Richard Agar will act as interim head coach until a permanent replacement for Furner is found.

'Fresh direction' needed, says Sinfield

"This was a very difficult decision and not one we have taken lightly," said director of rugby Kevin Sinfield, who met Furner along with chief executive Gary Hetherington over the weekend.

"David was an outstanding candidate to be our head coach and was my first choice for the job.

"Unfortunately, we have not started the season as we had all hoped and action was needed to move in a fresh direction with this group of players this season."

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Sinfield accepts responsibility for Furner exit

Leeds made a poor start to the season under Furner, losing to both of last season's Grand Finalists Warrington and Wigan before they thrashed Salford 46-14 at the AJ Bell Stadium in their third match.

But a five-game losing streak followed, including a last-minute defeat at home by newly-promoted London Broncos at Headingley in mid-March, and a loss to Catalans a week later saw them drop to the bottom of the table.

However, Leeds' results have picked up over the past six rounds, with wins over Castleford and fellow strugglers Huddersfield and Hull KR.

'Leeds desperate to make sure next appointment is right one'

Analysis: Dave Woods, BBC rugby league correspondent

Furner's time in charge of Leeds is the joint-shortest in the club's history. He ties with Malcolm Clift, sacked in 1985 after the same number of matches.

He has only overseen 14 Super League games, but there have been precious few signs that the Rhinos are set to turn their fortunes around.

The club are eight times Grand Final winners in the past 15 years, the most recent in 2017, but Leeds flirted with relegation last year, which led to the sacking of long-term coach Brian McDermott.

The appointment of Australian Furner in the close season and the signing of a couple of big-name players was supposed to be a fresh start.

But for all his experience in the NRL as Canberra head coach and South Sydney assistant coach, his side have looked lacklustre, even uncommitted at times in the early weeks of this season.

They are only two points above London Broncos, and although relegation should seem unthinkable, the longer the season goes on and the longer they fail to pull clear of the danger zone, the more that gnawing possibility of a drop out of Super League becomes a possibility.

A club that has never been relegated in the entire history of the sport, and which is in the process of a £43m redevelopment of its iconic stadium, cannot afford even to contemplate that sporting disaster.

In assistant coach Agar, Leeds have a highly-experienced and well-regarded personality to take over for Saturday's Challenge Cup tie against Bradford Bulls. He will probably have at least several weeks in the role and will be a strong candidate to take over on a permanent basis.

But Leeds will be desperate to make sure the next appointment is the right one. Avoiding relegation is one thing, but the Rhinos' fans expect their side to be challenging for the game's top honours. They look a long way short of that at the moment.

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