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SLXVIII Opens with a Cracker
Posted by southstander on January 31 2013 - 10:14:17

Full Debut
The reigning champs start their title defence with a Round one match against the Airlie Birds. If the game, in front of the SKY cameras, wasn't already spicy enough, the return of ex-Rhinos favourite Gareth Ellis as captain of the opposition will give it some extra pep.

Leeds have named three off-season signings in their nineteen man squad and Vickery, Achurch and Moon all have a chance of making the seventeen. Paul McShane is also back in the squad after a season long loan at Widnes.

Four months of boredom ends here.

We preview the game, read more here...

The slate is wiped clean for Superleague XVIII and looking across the squads it is the most difficult to call for several seasons. Warrington and Wigan will obviously be the two sides to beat and both will fancy their chances of Old Trafford come October. But there are plenty of other sides who could be in contention. Saints are an unknown quantity with new coach Brown, Catalans are also under new management and KR, FC and Huddersfield will all expect to be in the mix. It is going to be a tough season.

Peter Gentle will look to debut all seven of his close season signings but he is without the services of the influential Danny Tickle (bicep) and Liam Watts (thumb). Most home interest will be in Gareth Ellis who is likely to receive a warm welcome after chosing the Hull FC 'pieces of silver' over his old club on his return from a very successful stint in Australia.

Gentle names a nineteen of; Arundel, Briscoe, Crookes, Ellis, Galea, Green, Heremaia, Holdsworth, Horne, Houghton, Johnson, Lynch, McDonnell, O'Meley, Pitts, Seymour, Westerman, Whiting, and Yeaman.

It is a new look Rhinos nineteen as McDermott fiddles at the margins with his new resources. Joel Moon, a surprise siging from Salford Reds, comes in to replace the unfortunate Ben Jones-Bishop (who we all wish a speedy recovery). Mitch Achurch gives us some extra 'punch' up front (if Boxing Day is anything to go by) and looks an ideal 'enforcer'. UK-born Aussie centre Vickery is another interesting inclusion after being awarded a contract after trails. In addition to BJB the Rhinos are without 'human battering ram' Kylie Leuluai who is trying to overcome a knee injury to start his last season before retirement.

Brian McDermott names his nineteen man squad as; Hardaker, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, McShane, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Ward, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Griffin, and Vickery. With Stevie Ward named in the U19's to play tonight then he will be one who is unlikely to figure in the game plan and I expect that Vickery will be the other omission.

The last time that these two sides met was at Headingley last July when the Rhinos scored a 21-06 victory with tries from Ablett, Hall and Delaney being complemented by four Sinfield goals and a drop goal. This made up for a loss at the KC Stadium two months earlier when the Black & Whites triumphed by 20-34.

The sides have met 34 times in Superleague weekly rounds with the Rhinos winning 24, and with one match ending in draws. FC last won at Headingley in Superleague XII (2007) by 6-17.

Southstander.com Prediction
Rhinos 28 14 FC

FC have been given an eight point start by the bookies but I suspect that won't quite be enough. Leeds will be desperate to get their defence off to a great start as we did last season with a win over the other half of the City with a 34-16 win against KR.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is for rain up until kick-off which then clears with temperatures dropping close to zero while the game is on. So wrap up warm.

Hopefully it will be a great crowd and a fantastic season opener and we can finish the night with the two points in the bag and a fifth consecutive Superleague win.

Enjoy the game.

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