Much of the talk in recent weeks has been of a mythical injury to skipper Sir Kevin Sinfield but his inclusion in the nineteen man squad seems to allay fears, or is on almighty bluff by Brian McDermott. It looks likely that the skipper will make his 400th Rhinos appearance at a frozen Headingley tonight.
Ben Jones-Bishop and Ian Kirke have obviously not shown up too well in pre-season, or ate too much turkey, and are both absent from a squad which includes both new signings Moore and Griffin.
The full ninteen chosen by McDermott is; Webb, Watkins, Hardaker, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, McShane, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, L. Smith, Delaney, Bailey, Clarkson, Hauraki, Griffin, and Moore. It's anyones guess asa to who the gaffer will leave out, and even which thirteen will take the field for the kick-off, I'm not even going to bother guessing.
The new regime under Hull KR coach Craig Sandercock has rung the changes with plenty of new blood being brought into the Robins squad. Shannon McDonnell, David Hodgson, Lincoln Withers, Micky Paea, Graeme Horne, Constantine Mika and Keal Carlile will all make their first team competitive debuts and the side will be skippered by Michael Dobson in the absence of captain Ben Galea.
Hull KR are one of the Rhinos bogey sides and are never a walkover and with a nineteen of; McDonnell, Hall, D. Hodgson, Clinton, Withers, Webster, Dobson, Wheeldon, Taylor, Lovegrove, J. Hodgson, Paea, Horne, Murrell, Mika, Netherton, Cox, Welham, and Carlile, they will definitely be coming to HQ with a belief that they can overturn the Champions and take away the two points.
Three Robins to keep an eye on;
The only real pre-season chance we got to see the majority of the first teamers was in the slaughter of Featherstone for Rob Burrow's Testimonial. Although up against poor opposition they still had to be beaten and at times we ran them ragged. A pot full of tries was great but the clean sheet was even greater and suggests that Lowes may have got the start of season defence in a far better condition than it was in 2011.
Hopefully this year we'll be coming out of the blocks in better physical condition but many of us will be wondering how we'll adapt to the loss of Danny Buderus in the key hooking position.
Hull KR have won three out of the last four meeting between the sides although the Rhinos were the victors in the last meeting, a game at Headingley which we won 44-14. In the Superleague era the Rhinos have a won 6, lost 4 record against the Robins.
This is a game we should win, and I think that we will do comfortably. KR have brought in a lot of new players, under a new coach, and that will take some settling into. Leeds on the other hand are pretty stable and with Sinfield leading from the front in a landmark game for him, I think that we'll put a few points on the board.
As we proved last season this is a competition which the tortoise can win, so starting like a hare isn't necessary. That said, a win on the opening weekend sends out a brilliant message to the rest of the league and gets us up and running on the right foot. McDermott will have spent the last month putting the Grand Final out of the minds of his players and focussing them on bringing more success and glory to Headingley in 2012.
The forecast suggests that it temperatures will creep above freezing during the day but have dropped back down below zero by kcik-off. There is still some chance of snow, and plenty of chance of ice on the roads, so take care on your way to the game.
See you there.