Kyle Eastmond says he will have to get back into the habit of counting tackles as he readjusts to rugby league after almost a decade in the 15-man code.

The Oldham-born 31-year-old admits he felt “rusty” on his debut for Leeds Rhinos in their 19-6 Super League defeat by Wigan at Headingley on Thursday night but is confident he will soon get back up to speed.

The former St Helens half-back, who played mostly at centre following his switch to rugby union in 2011, was caught out of position several times on the sixth and last tackle against Wigan and, therefore, was not in the best position to kick for territory.

“It’s a lot easier when you don’t have a set amount of tackles,” said Eastmond, who played for Bath, Wasps and Leicester and won six caps for England in the 15-man code.

“It’s something I’m going to have to look at again this week because it’s not instinctive to me to be counting tackles.

“I could hold onto the ball for however long I wanted over the last 10 years and maybe that’s something I can improve on to help my positioning for my kicking game. It’s something I can work on.”

Eastmond, who helped St Helens reach the 2009 Grand Final against Leeds before going on to play for England in the Four Nations Series, has noticed several subtle changes in rugby league since he last played the game.

“I don’t think it’s massively different to when I left, to be honest,” he said. “I think tactically the game has definitely changed.

“I think there’s a little bit more ball movement now.

“Whereas in the past it would be moving backwards a lot more, it seems to be going side to side a little bit than last time I played.

“The last tackle finishes are very different, where you position yourself to kick a ball is different, so little things like that.

“It could take me a few weeks to get instinctive but, now I’ve got a game under my belt, it will accelerate and hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll get up to where I need to be.”

Eastmond, who has signed a two-year contract with the Rhinos, had not picked up a rugby ball competitively for 14 months but he got through the full 80 minutes on Thursday and says he felt a sense of relief afterwards.

“Honestly, I thought it was going to be worse than that,” he said. “I’m not saying that disrespectfully because next week could be a different style of game and I could be blowing after five minutes.

“After being out of the game for 14 months, that’s where I thought I could get caught out and I could still get caught out by the lack of game time but, the more games I play, the quicker I can get up to speed.

“I just needed to get this under my belt. I was always going to be rusty and it will improve.

“I feel a bit relieved that I’ve got something to go back on now, to reference.”

Eastmond in action

Eastmond in action