Leeds secure early Toopi release

Kiwi Test centre Clinton Toopi has been granted an early release from his New Zealand Warriors contract to join Leeds for the rest of the season.

The 26-year-old, originally due to arrive at Headingley on a three-year deal from next season, is expected to leave for England this week.

He could make his Rhinos debut against Hull on 4 August, with six games left in the regular Super League season.

"I'm thankful to the club for allowing me to leave early," Toopi said.

"Players are ahead of me here at the Warriors now and I think I need to be playing football at the highest level possible.

"I want to be in the Kiwi team for this year's Tri-Nations and my best chance of achieving that at this stage is by playing for Leeds."

Toopi has lost his place at the Warriors, who cannot reach the end-of-season play-offs.

He made the last of his 129 appearances for them against St George Illawarra on 13 May, having joined the Auckland club in 1999.

Toopi scored 57 tries in that time and won his 19th Test cap in the Kiwis' 46-14 defeat by Great Britain at Knowsley Road last month.

"We are extremely grateful to the Warriors for enabling Clinton to join us now and start a new period of his life and career with the Rhinos," said Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington.

"He will leave for the UK as soon as we have acquired a work permit for him.

"However, he is ineligible for the Powergen Challenge Cup and that means the earliest opportunity he would have to make his debut would be our clash with Hull on 4 August."