PROMISING loose-forward Ryan Backhouse is to leave York City Knights without playing a competitive match – making the proposed return of big-hitting Joe Pickets more imperative.

Backhouse is to head out to Australia after his visa application proved successful late last week, leaving the Knights another body short in the back row.

He signed off with two tries in an impressive performance for the under-20s reserves in their win over Sheffield U20s last Thursday, despite struggling with an ankle problem.

“It looks like he’s got his visa so he’ll be going to Australia,” confirmed Knights boss Gary Thornton, who had previously coached the 20-year-old in Castleford Tigers’ academy.

“He asked if he could be released and he’s going to go over in the next week or two.

“It’s a shame to lose him. He’s a good player and he would have featured this season.

“It’s a bit of a loss for us really, and bringing Joe Pickets back now looks more important.”

The Press revealed on Saturday that the Knights were in talks with 23-year-old Pickets about returning to Huntington Stadium once his commitments with Beverley RUFC were at an end in the spring.

The back-rower played 11 times in the Championship last season after arriving at York in May.

Backhouse, who was born in York but grew up in West Yorkshire, had a successful trial and signed a pay-as-you-play deal at Huntington Stadium this winter after being released by Super League outfit Cas at the end of last season.

He featured in the first-team friendlies against Cas and Gateshead.

Meanwhile, the Knights will find out their third round Tetley’s Challenge Cup opponents tonight.

The draw will take place at the University of Gloucestershire – the home of York City Knights’ Kingstone Press Championship rivals Gloucestershire All Golds – at 6.10pm.

The third round ties will be played over the weekend of Saturday, March 15 and Sunday, March 16.