Just one point separates sixth (Leeds) from seventh (castleford) and if these two finish the season occupying the same spots tonights match could be the one which determines who has home advantage in the opening round of the play-offs. While the Rhinos will be forgiven for having one eye on the trip to Wembley in a fortnights time, the Rhinos supporters want their team to continue performing right until the end of the Superleague season and keep climbing the Superleague table hoping for slip-ups from Catalans and the Giants.
Leeds will have to take on the Tigers without Brett Delaney who seems to be finding a new lease of life in the second row. Carl Ablett is in the squad despite bleeding all over the Doncaster turf last week from a facial injury and Chris Clarkson is named in the seventeen with a minor foot injury.
The soon to be departed Ali is back in the ninteen, as are Smith and Pitts. The full squad is; Webb, Smith, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Lauitiiti, Bailey, Kirke, Watkins, Hauraki, Clarkson, Pitts, and Jones-Bishop. This may be a week to be cautious and let Ablett and Clarkson have an extra weeks recouperation, but if we do then both will be missed.
The Tigers will have been licking their festering semi-final wounds all week and their exit from the competition could effect them positively or negatively.
The Tigers casualty list from last week is longer than the Rhinos with Jackson, Ferres, Dixon and Hudson all missing from this weeks squad. They have been replaced by Clark, Eden, Massey and John Davies in a squad which looks considerably weaker than last weeks; Youngquest, Arundel, Owen, Chase, Orr, Jones, Milner, Isa, Aspinwall, Massey, Thompson, McGoldrick, Holmes, Widders, J. Davies, Clark, Eden, Parker, and B. Davies.
But beware the wounded Tiger.
Last year this was the fixture, just before the cup final, where we lost Burgess and Peacock and which certainly meant we sent a weaker side to Wembley than we'd have wanted. The main concern for this week is that we come through the game with the full squad unscathed.
Three Tigers to keep an eye on;
The Rhinos come into this game with four consecutive wins under their belts, including last weeks golden point victory over the same opposition. The Rhinos are one place above the Tigers in the
Superleague table and on the one occasion where the sides met earlier this season the Rhinos were comfortable winners by 48-06 at the Jungle.
Once again this is a game that we should win, especially with the injuries which the Tigers suffered last week, but I am not 100% confident. Castleford have been given a fourteen point start on the coupon which isn't a very clear reflection on the closeness of last weeks encounter. Perhaps the bookies think that Leeds crushing extra-time win last week will have broken the visitors.
There is a fity-fifty chance of rain throughout the match tonight although the temperatures could get up towards the late teens and stay there until kick-off.
Travel safe and see you there.