Six weeks ago the Rhinos went to Belle Vue looking for their seventh consecutive victory and were embarrassed by a well drilled and eager Wildcats side who won a deserved 18-38 victory, a scoreline reversal of the Challenge Cup 4th Round meeting between the sides earlier in the season. Make no mistake about this game, despitye the bookies giving the visitors a +14 start on the coupon, this is anyones game.
The Rhinos are relieved to have Ian Kirke named in the nineteen after he 'stopped breathing' as was hospitalised during the Giants loss last time out. Weller Hauraki, confirmed as moving to Castleford for 2013, is also in the nineteen. The most welcome sight on the teamsheet is that of Danny McGuire who could well be the difference between progress and failure, and Shaun Lunt is back in the squad after being blocked from playing by the club who hold his papers last week.
McDermott names a strong nineteen, without Jimmy Keinhorst for the first time since making his debut against Wakefield six weeks ago, as; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Hardaker, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Hauraki, Griffin, Ward, and Lunt. If McGuire is fit I would expect that two from Clarkson, Hauraki and Griffin would miss out.
The Wakefield side is increadingly looking like an ex-Rhinos 'who's who' with five of the named ninteen having some history at Headingley. That immediately adds to the danger with ex-employees looking to prove a point and we need to be particularly wary of Lee Smith and Big Ali who are both bound to have excellent games in opposition.
Agar has a 'fully fit and healthy' squad to choose from and makes just one change to the side which triumphed at Salford last week. Danny Cowling takes the place of Matt James and the Wildcats coach will be praying for no return of the migrane which forced the last minute withdrawal of Ali Lauiti'iti last weekend. He names a strong ninteen of; Mathers, Fox, Cockayne, Cowling, Wood, Lauiti'iti, Ellis, Raleigh, Collis, Washbrook, Amor, Johnson, Kirmond, Mariano, T Smith, Trout, Wilkes, Sykes, and L Smith.
On paper the Rhinos are stronger, but in reality Agar has his side playing like a team, too close to call?
Three ex-Rhinos 'Cats to keep an eye on;
Ignoring the pointless Yuletide friendly, this is the third time that the side have met this season, with Leeds winning on two occasions. The Rhinos won the first meeting at Headingley in the Challenge Cup by 38-18 before truimphing in the first league meeting, also at HQ, by the ridiculous scoreline of 44-40. The Wildcats took their revenge at Belle Vue six weeks ago with that 38-18 win.
The last time that the Wildcats won at Headingley was five years ago with a 16-23 outcome, and they have only beaten us twice since then at their own ground.
I still think that this is too close to sensibly call.
When we played them six weeks ago the bookies gave them a twelve point start, and they beat us by twenty. This weekend they are giving them a fourteen point start, which I can't reconcile, particularly after last Sundays lack of effort. This will be a close on, a nailbiter to the final hooter, and hopefully the scoreboard will be in our favour when it sounds.
It is forecast to be mid-teens with a chance of rain on Saturday, conditions for a decent game of open rugby.
I've got everything crossed for a Leeds win and progress to next week, with the likelihood being a visit to the South of France, but a loss and exit at this stage wouldn't be a massive surprise.
See you there.