Ward focused on Rhinos

PA Sport
Stevie Ward, left, has signed a five-year deal with Leeds
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Stevie Ward, left, has signed a five-year deal with Leeds

Leeds teenager Stevie Ward has turned down a trip to Australia in order to push for a place in the Carnegie Challenge Cup final.

The 18-year-old loose forward, who has been dubbed the new Kevin Sinfield, was due to fly out on Thursday with the England Academy squad for their four-match tour but has decided to put club before country and, on Tuesday, signed a new five-year contract with the champions.

Ward, who recently completed his A-levels, made his Super League debut earlier this year and was a substitute in the 39-28 Challenge Cup semi-final win over Wigan last Saturday. Had he gone on tour, he would have missed the next four league games which would effectively rule him out of contention for the Wembley showdown with Warrington on August 25.

"I spoke with my family, team-mates and (coach) Brian McDermott and everyone said they would support me whatever I decided to do," he said.

"For me personally, I feel I need to keep playing with the Rhinos at this stage, having broken into the squad.

"We have got some very important games coming up in the league as we look to move up the table and, of course, we now have Wembley on the horizon at the end of next month.

"Part of being a professional sportsman is that you have to make sacrifices and live with your decisions and, whilst this has been the toughest decision of my life, I believe it is the right one.

"I wish John Bateman and the rest of the England lads all the best for the tour and I know they will go there and do themselves and the country proud."

Ward will now focus on the derby with Bradford at Headingley on Friday, having committed his future to the club at least until the end of the 2017 season.

"Leeds is my home and everyone at the club has made it so much easier for me to come into the first team this season and feel part of the squad," added Ward.

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