Brent Webb is once again in contention after not quite making fitness for last weekends game against Warrington. It is likely that he will be back this week and if so we are in a position where we can't really blame injuries for any more poor performances. Burgess, and Clarkson are still out of favour with the coach and four of our lads will be boosted by their inclusion in the England squad to take on the Exiles in a weeks time.
I suspect, and hope, that the tackle bags have taken a bit of a beating in training this week as we left some gaping holes and missed some shocking tackles last week. Perhaps a lesson or two in how to get the ball on the ground over the whitewash will also have been taught as if we'd not blown first half chances last week the outcome could have been substantially different.
Big Mac's ninteen is; Webb, Smith, Delaney, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Lauiti'iti, Bailey, Kirke, Hauraki, Pitts, McShane, and Hardaker. If Webb is fit then I'd expect Hardaker and Pitts to miss out, but with this coach you never know what surprises he'll spring.
On paper the Saints have more absentee problems than the Rhinos. Josh Perry picked up a one game suspension from last weekends game. Pryce, Wheeler, Moore, Flannery and Clough are joined by Ade Gardener who ruptured an achilles last weekend and will be sidelined for the season.
Pocket-rocket union bound Eastmond is back in favour with the coach, if not the supporters and with Meli, Wellens, Roby, cry-baby and Wilkin there is plenty of experience to carry the few inexperienced heads in the home side.
Royce Simmons will be expecting his fourth placed side to continue their push for a high finish and he names a squad of; Wellens, Shenton, Soliola, Meli, Eastmond, Perry, Roby, Graham, Puletua, Wilkin, Moore, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Ashurst, Dixon, Lomax, Magennis, Gaskell, Foster, and Makinson.
Three Saints to watch;
Leeds handed the Saints a 16-30 win earlier in the season when the two sides met at Headingley and while I still suspect that we'll get beaten I'd hope that the margin is much narrower than it was earlier in the year.
There were three meetings between the sides last season. 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.
The bookies have given us an eight point start on the coupon and I feel that this is spot on. I'd be backing the 16/1 draw with that handicap.
Leeds need to re-find their winning ways after last weeks loss, Saints have a two game winning run under their belts having lost to the Giants three games ago.
Phil Bentham takes charge, as he did at Headingley earlier in the season. Steve 'Saint' Ganson is the video referee so prepare yourself for the 50:50 calls going in his beloved Saints way.
It is going to be a glorious day and evening with temperature still likely to be in the high teens when the final hooter sounds.
Hopefully the ground will be packed and the atmosphere will drive both sides to the kind of classic that they used to serve up a couple of seasons ago.
Drive safe and enjoy the game.