Both sides have both injury and disciplinary problems. Eastmond is suspended by Saints after all sorts of shenanigans following the announcement of his departure to Bath rugby union at the end of the season. It now looks as though he has played his last game of rugby league, such a shame for an emerging mercurial talent. Leeds will also be without a key player in Ryan Bailey who was thought likely to return after injury but finds himself the centre of controversy. Bailey showed archetypal 'big daft lad' syndrome by allegedly repeating Japanese earthquake/tsunami jokes on Facebook.
Bailys misdemeanour, along with the horrendous news that Ben Jones-Bishop will be missing for four months after dislocating a shoulder, means that Leeds are again down to the bare bones. Ben Cross is back after suspension and Lee Smith returns from injury are both positive bits of news and Leeds have called dual registered Zak Hardaker back from Featherstone into the named nineteen.
Big Mac has named a nineteen of; Webb, Smith, Senior, Hall, Burrow, Buderus, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Lauiti'iti, Cross, Kirke, Burgess, Watkins, Hauraki, Clarkson, Pitts, McShane, and Hardaker. I suspect that Zak will miss out on the seventeen but I am not sure who will join him in the stands.
New Saints coach Royce Simmonds gets his first taste of a Rhinos v. Saints encounter and must wonder what he has walked into with the Eastmond farce being played out in front of him.
Simmonds is also without the services of Soliola, Pryce and Wilkin but the Saints are stronger on paper than the Rhinos who are without six key players. Saints name a nineteen of; Wellens, Gardner, Shenton, Meli, Perry, Roby, Graham, Puletua, Flannery, Moore, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Clough, Wheeler, Ashurst, Dixon, Lomax, Magennis, Foster, and Gaskell.
Three Saints to watch;
This could be an absolute classic as the two arch rivals slog it out for the spoils, or either side could get a grip early on and run away with it. I expect the former with a nip and tuck game which could see the lead changing hands on several occasions.
There were three meetings between the sides in 2010. Saints won the first at Knowsley Road by a comfortable 41-20 but the Rhinos emerged vistors in the other two encounters. In the second Superleague XV game the Rhinos were 28-24 winners at Headingley and then the Rhinos secured their passage to the, better forgotten, Challenge Cup Final with a 32-28 victory.
Phil Bentham has been named as referee for the game so at least that means that we don't have to try and work out why the whistle has been blown (like we did last week with the idiot Frenchman).
There is zero chance of rain tomorrow and we may well kick-off in a tropical ten degrees.
Hopefully the terraces will be packed and the atmosphere will be electric.
Come of Leeds, take up where we left off last week and lets get the season rocking.
See you there.