There will have been a huge sigh of relief around Headingley when to of last weeks spectators, Kevin Sinfield and Keith Senior, were declared fit to play in Round Two. Last weeks win over the Wildcats was hard fought and we certainly missed Sinfields' leading from the front and play making. Senior, despite his occasional brain farts, adds extra steel in the backs and we're more solid with him than without.
The downside is that we've now lost Ali Lauiti'iti who will sit out the game in the expectation that he'll be fit for the World Club Challenge, while Rob Burrow is still worryingly absent and must nor be doubtful for the Elland Road clash on the 1st March. Bluey has named his squad as; Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Sinfield, Diskin, Bailey, Kirke, Ablett, Burgess, Gibson, Allan, Watkins, and McShane. I expect that Allan and our man McShane are the two likely to be overlooked, although after a great game last weekend Allen may well get another chance at the expense of Ash Gibson.
After smacking Glenn Morrison at Odsal last week, ex-Rhino Chev Walker has cost himself the chance of facing his old side for the first time due to a one match suspension. Morgan has drafted another ex-Rhinos Chas I'Anson into his squad as Walkers replacement and names his nineteen as; Fox, I'Anson, Briscoe, Welham, Webster, Colbon, Cooke, Dobson, Fozzard, Fisher, Aizue, Newton, Galea, Murrell, Fitzhenry, Lovegrove, Netherton, Cockayne, and Mills.
On paper you have to say that the Robins are looking a lot stronger than they did last season. The half-backs of Cooke and Dobson could be amongst the best in the competition and with Fozzard and Aizue heading up the front row we could well have our hands full.
Three ex-Rhino Robins to watch;
The Rhinos won both of last seasons games against the Robins. The last visit to Craven Park saw us win by 36-22 while the win at Headingley earlier in the season was much closer at 20-12. We have come unstuck in East Hull before though, when we slipped up 20-22 in an early 2007 season encounter, winning a second trip 18-10 and picking up the two points at Headingley with a 34-18 win.
So four games since the KR last beat us, back in March 2007, lets hope that we can stretch it to five.
I think that we'll win this, and win fairly hansomly. Sinfield back in the side, and player wanted to guarantee their spot for next weekends Elland Road showdown against Australia's best will be enough to see us home.
There is a small chance of some rain tonight although it should hold off. The temperature is pretty mild but coling down towards the end of the game. Leeds have sold out their allocation of tickets so there will be plenty there to create some noise.
The bookies are giving KR an eight point start and without a handicap they are 9/4 to win the game - Leeds are 1/3.
Have a safe journey, and I'm hoping that the fog I drove through on my way to Manchester this morning doesn't move east. Fingers crossed for a 100% record going into the World Club Challenge.
See you there.