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Leeds Rhinos and Leeds United make French connection ahead of live Sky Sports double-header

Leeds Rhinos' French forwards Justin Sangare and Mickael Goudemand met up with their compatriots at Leeds United, goalkeeper Illan Meslier and striker Georginio Rutter, ahead of their respective teams' games this weekend - both of which are live on Sky Sports

Leeds French Connection. Thurs29thFeb2024. .. MATTHEW MERRICK PHOTOGRAPHY / Leeds Rhinos

In the past two years, Justin Sangare and Mickael Goudemand have both decided to swap life in their homeland of France for Leeds to pursue their sporting ambitions. They now know they are not the only ones to have made that move.

The two French rugby league internationals got the opportunity to meet up with two of their footballing compatriots doing likewise at Leeds United in Illan Meslier and Georginio Rutter earlier this week, with both clubs featuring live on Sky Sports on Saturday.

Rhinos forwards Sangare and Goudemand spent the afternoon speaking with goalkeeper Meslier and striker Rutter - en Francais, naturalmente - at the Thorp Arch training complex ahead of United's trip to Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town in the Sky Bet Championship, swapping stories of life on and off the pitch.

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"We had a good time," Sangare, who hopes to see Meslier and Rutter at AMT Headingley for a Betfred Super League match soon, said. "We spoke together about some funny moments and funny things they have got in their lives.

"It's good to catch up with the Leeds United players, especially the French players.

"We spoke in French together, they explained where they're from and their story, so it was quite nice to speak to them and have this connection with them.

"We're going to try to get them to come and watch a game and see the atmosphere."

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Highlights of Leeds Rhinos' 22-16 win over Salford Red Devils in their opening game of the 2024 Betfred Super League season

United's clash with Huddersfield (12.30pm kick-off) is followed by the Rhinos' third match of the 2024 Super League regular season, when they welcome Goudemand's former club Catalans Dragons to AMT Headingley (3pm).

Last year's Grand Final runners-up have made an unbeaten start to the new campaign with wins over Warrington Wolves, despite having Michael McIlorum sent off, and promoted London Broncos, and Leeds head coach Rohan Smith is an admirer of what opposite number Steve McNamara has done in Perpignan.

"They've been super-impressive the first two games," Smith said in his pre-match press conference. "Steve Mac has done a tremendous job over a long period of time.

"The thing he's been able to do is no matter who has come or gone from the club, they've maintained their standards, and their DNA has remained very prominent.

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Highlights of Hull KR's 22-12 win at home to Leeds Rhinos in Round 2 of the Betfred Super League

"We've had some great clashes with Catalans over the last couple of years...and we hope to have a good open contest against them and challenge ourselves against a proven successful club over the past four or five years."

The Rhinos were unable to build on their winning start to the season as they were beaten 22-12 away to last year's play-off semi-finalists and Betfred Challenge Cup runners-up Hull KR in a game which also saw Sam Lisone and James Donaldson sin-binned.

Smith is optimistic being back on home turf in better playing conditions than the heavy pitch encountered in the wet at Sewell Group Craven Park will allow his team to showcase their attacking abilities, while he was pleased with aspects of their defence as well.

"I think we'll be able to express ourselves a bit more and play some upbeat rugby," Smith said.

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"Our D was really good last week, I thought. We just had a couple of moments with a few deflections which let us down.

"We've conceded one line-break in two weeks, so we're building a base there and not presenting the opposition with many opportunities."

Sangare, who joined Leeds from Toulouse Olympique ahead of the 2023 Super League season, is braced for a big clash with a strong Catalans pack as well.

"It's going to be a tough challenge," Sangare said. "We have to be ready - it's going to be a big game and we have to be ready for the battle."

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Watch Huddersfield Town vs Leeds United in the Sky Bet Championship live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event from 12pm, followed by Leeds Rhinos vs Catalans Dragons in the Betfred Super League on Sky Sports Action from 2.30pm. Stream Sky Sports and more for £21 a month for 12 months with NOW.

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