We're also missing the new recruits, and some old dependables as the start to the season has come too soon for injury struck Buderus and Webb and too quickly for the government to sort out Eastwood's passport. Throw an injured Ryan Bailey into the mix and we're starting to look a little vulnerable in several areas of the pitch.
Bluey has his options restructed and has named his nineteen as; Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Leuluai, Peacock, Jones Buchanan, Lauiti'iti, Sinfield, Diskin, Kirke, Ablett, Burgess, Gibson, Allan, Watkins, McShane, and Manning. Expect to see Sinfield and McGuire at halves with Ablett at loose forward. Manning and McShane are the two most likely to drop out as we look for a winning start, but with Bluey you always have to expect the unexpected.
The Celtic Crusaders, a very welcome franchise to the top flight, are an unknown quantity. Unknown to Bluey, the Leeds players, the Crusaders Coach John Dixon and the Crusaders players and fans. The majority of the squad (six of whom were at the Crusaders last season) only arrived during the week and go into friday nights fixture fresh off the plane and without a single warm-up fixture.
Dixons nineteen is; Duggan, Dyer, Hannay, Dalle Cort, Blackwood, Quinn, Van Dijk, O'Hara, Bryant, Peek, Mapp, Chalk, Smith, Lupton, Flower, James, Tangata-Toa, Beasley, and Budworth. There are several familiar names to Leeds fans, including ex-Rhino Peter Lupton and ex-Harlequins player Budworth. While the rest won't be household names, never underestimate an Aussie rugby league player.
Three Rhinos who we'll need to rely on;
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is the first time the Rhinos have played the Crusaders, and in Superleague terms it is, but cast your mind back to April 2008 and we took on the Welsh side in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup. On that day the visitors ran us close up to half time but had nothing left in the second half as we handed out a 36-14 beating. The game was notable for the seven tries for Leeds coming from seven different scorers. There are some remnants from that game but the majority of friday nights side will see changes for the Crusaders.
The biggest battle tomorrow may well be the weather and I'm doubtful whether the game will go ahead following the arctic battering that we've had in the last week. I'm sure that if there is any possibility of us playing then the game will be put on, but if there is no hope then I hope that Leeds will do the right thing and call the game off early enough to stop wasted journeys from South Wales.
The weather will probably still be a leveller and that is why I'm predicting a narrower winning margin than the last time that the two sides met.
Fridays forecast is for rain and snow with a high of two degrees and a low of minus four. It will be a miracle for the game to go ahead, I just hope that I don't arrive at Headingley as they call the game off with forty-five minutes to go to kick-off.
The bookies have given the Crusaders a 24 point start on the coupon which I think is fairly generous. The Crusaders are 9/1 for an outright win with Leeds being 1/20.
If we do get the go-ahead wrap up warm. The Western Terrace is closed due to the piles of snow on it so all you travelling Welsh supporters will be welcome in the South Stand. I hope we can play as I am desperate to get the season started, but not at the expense of a farce!.
See you there.