The close season has seen a lot of changes and Headingley and many of them will have a direct bearing on sundays fixture. Leeds new boss
Brian McDermott is an ex-Bradford player, as is his assistant Jimmy Lowes. In the other direction, Matt Diskin will look very strange to
Rhinos fans as he takes the field in Bulls colours and career-Rhino Francis Cummins is now on the training staff. Already the tie is
dripping with intrigue.
Leeds are obviously without two key players in Peacock and McGuire and these two will be missing for a couple of months yet. Diskin is at
Bradford and will normally be replaced by rising star (our) Paul McShane, although McShane doesn't figure in McDermotts first nineteen.
Scott Donald has hung up his boots creating a gap on the wing likely to be filled by Lee Smith. New signing Hauraki and Cross add bulk to
the pack and Ian Kirke is likely to try and fill Peacocks boots for the early part of the season.
Keith Senior is likely to start his 16th Superleague season and plays in his 350th game for Leeds (all competitions) and 400th Superleague game. Big Mac names the following nineteen; Webb, Smith, Delaney, Senior, Hall, Burrow, Leuluai, Buderus, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Lauiti'iti, Cross, Bailey, Kirke, Burgess, Watkins, Hauraki, and Pitts. Hauraki will only play if his paperwork arrives and is cleared by the RFL in time.
Brian McDermott started his coaching career at Headingley and time that he spent in London with the Harlequins was considered by many to
simply be a 'loan'.
Mick Potter, as new in his post as his opposite number, has a number of ex-Rhinos to call on. These include; Gareth Raynor, Chev Walker,
Nick Scruton but all eyes will be on Matt Diskin who left behind many good friends when he departed Leeds after eleven years of solid and
There is no doubting that the Bulls squad has improved through acquisition but it has strengthened across the team rather than through
bringing in any individual superstars. And that strength in depth, as Leeds proved when they dominated for three years, is the secret of
Potters nineteen man squad is; Ainscough, Ah Van, Briggs, Diskin, Elima, Hargreaves, Kearney, Kopczak, Langley, L'Estrange, Lynch, Platt, Raynor, Royston, Scruton, Sibbit, Sykes, Walker, and Whitehead. This ninteen contains 10 possible Bulls debuts!
Three ex-Rhino Bulls to watch;
Both sides will be desperate to start their 2011 campaign with a win. The Bulls fans will expect a big improvement on last season, whereas
the Rhinos fans will be looking to regain the trophy that we loaned to Wigan for the winter.
Since we started this 'on-the-road' thing we've played the Bulls twice in a foreign countries national stadium. In May 2008, the last
foreign encounter, we won by 40-26. That was far more comfortable that
the encounter just under a year earlier when sundays referee Steve 'Saint' Ganson allowed to dodgiest of Jordan Tansey tries after the
final hooter had sounded for the Rhinos to grab an infamous 42-38
The last time that we lost to the Bulls was that dreadful game at Oldslum in 2009 when despite running the game for long periods we just
couldn't score and lost by 06-10.
I think that despite not having Peacock or McGuire we will still have too much firepower for the Bulls who like us are in a transition
season. The bookies are giving the Bulls just a six point start on the coupon which suggests that I am being a little optimistic and they
may well be right. There are just too many unknowns in this one to make an informed call so you just have to go with your gut feeling.
There are showers forecast for sunday in Cardiff and the probability of
rain is higher than sixty percent. It looks like the roof will be closed for both days both to help create atmosphere and protect the pitch
from a South Wales downpour.
Drive safe, have a great weekend, and enjoy the rugby festival.