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French Connection II
Posted by southstander on September 21 2012 - 07:36:42

The Difference?
Eighty minutes of rugby league will tonight define our season.

A loss, and exit from the play-offs, will signal failure and a season which ends with just a World Club Challenge win to our name. A win, and we are into the realm of acceptability having made it to the semi-finals stage.

But this game isn't an easy one, away at the partisan cauldron of the Stade Gilbert Brutus in Perpignan. We'll need to be at our very best to snatch a victory. We preview the game, read more here...

The Rhinos are without prop forward Kylie Leuluai, missing only his second Super League game of the season, after a seventy-ninth minute moment of madness against Wakefield Wildcats in last weeks game. Ian Kirke is back in the squad after the frightening clash of heads with Luke O'Donnell in the last game of the regular season left him unconscious and hospitalised.

The Rhinos 'holy trinity' of Sinfield, Burrow and McGuire found their form in the second half of the win over the 'Cats and hopefully McGuire could be the key to improving on our performance over when we last visited the South of France without him a month ago.

Brian McDermott names a nineteen of; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Hardaker, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Hauraki, Griffin, Moore, Ward, and Lunt. Suspension considered this is about as strong as we could be to take on the side who finished fourth. Of the nineteen I'd expect that Moore and Hauraki would be the two not needing to get changed.

This is possibly Trent Robinsons last game in charge, but his players will be determined to send their coach on his way with a Grand Final appearance. The crowd at the Stade Gilbert Brutus can be ferocious and they will be pumped up for this one and will certainly drown out the voices of the small number of Rhinos fans who have managed to find the both funds and time to make the journey at such short notice (myself sadly excluded).

After an awful performance at Wigan last weekend the home side have something to prove. David Ferriol is back in the side and available for selection and it is believed that Robinson is considering gambling on the fitness of Leon Pryce and has included him in the named ninteen despite him only having started light training last week after knee surgery.

The Catalans have amassed a formidible side and will be boosted by the news that Steve Menzies has extended his contract for another year. The full ninteen is; Greenshields, Blanch, Pryce, Sa, Bosc, Dureau, Ferriol, Henderson, Casty, Menzies, Anderson, Mounis, Raguin, Pelissier, Millard, Fakir, Paea, Baitieri, and Duport. Robinsons difficulty is choosing which of his stars to leave out.

Make no mistake, this is going to be tough for the Rhinos.

Three Dragons to keep an eye on;


Pryce

Fakir

Ferriol

There is recent history between the sides with the Dragons having triumphed by a narrow four point when the two sides met in France just over a month ago. On that occasion the Rhinos can count themselves unlucky to have lost the game as a couple of 50:50 referees calls went against them. Had the game run for another few minutes the Rhinos would have snatched victory but with a total of seventy-two points being scored that afternoon, both coaches will be hoping for tighter defences.

In the only other encounter this season the Rhinos won comfortably with a 34-18 win at Headingley.

The Rhinos have won eleven out of fifteen Super League encounters between the sides, but all five losses have been in France. The last time we won there was two seasons ago in Superleague XV when we had to fight hard for a 34-24 win. There always seems to be plenty of points around when two sides who like to pass the ball clash in the sunshine, tonight should be no exception (although the sun will have set).

Southstander.com Prediction
Dragons 28 20 Rhinos

The bookies think that it will be close and have given the Rhinos a narrow four point start on the coupon. I've gone for a slightly larger margin vistory for the home side, following my season long habit of predicting Rhinos losses in major games.

There is no doubt that the lads will be full of passion, boosted by last weeks second half performance, and confident after the strong 'McGuire-less' outing last time.

The weather is going to be pretty pleasant in the South of France tonight with little chance of rain and temperatures in the low twenties as late a kick-off time. Perfect open rugby conditions.

Everything crossed for the Rhinos tonight, one of those rare occasions where I will be watching from the safety of my sofa, neighbours warned to expect shouting and screaming. Not sure the telly will be too safe of we do anything stupid.

Enjoy the game.

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