Leeds are without Danny Buderus, sidelined through injury joins Brent Webb in the stands. Bluey would also have been confident in being able to field Greg Eastwood whose signing looks increasingly doubtful as the 'visa' problem spreads around the league. The good news is that with these three exceptions McClennan can name a pretty strong side to take on a Manly side who have been in the UK for well over a week, determined to take the trophy back down-under.
The Rhinos nineteen for sunday evening is; Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Lauiti'iti, Sinfield, Diskin, Bailey, Kirke, Ablett, Burgess, Gibson, Watkins, and McShane. It is tough to guess which of these will miss out but I strongly suspect that one will be Gibson and either Watkins or our man McShane. It's great to see Rob Burrow back in contention and we'll need him to play if we are to be in with a chance of winning.
The Sea Eagles are star-studded and have brough a full strength side to wrestle the silveware from our grasp. Thirteen of the Sea Eagles side played in last seasons Australian Grand Final and the squad is made up of; B Stewart, Robertson, Lyon, Matai, Williams, Bailey, Orford, King, Ballin, Perry, Watmough, Hall, G Stewart, L'Estrange, Cuthbertson, Rose, Rodney, and Waerea-Hargreaves. Of particular interest to Rhinos fans will be ex-Saints thorn in our side Jamie Lyon, out to cause us more misery if he can.
Manly came over early to take part in a warm-up game against the Harlequins which, after trailing heavily in the first half they won by 34-26. In Leeds previous World Club matches the Rhinos have played opposition who had just got off the plane, and it showed.
Three Rhinos we'll be relying on to win the game;
Leeds have won both of their last two World Club Challenges, both at Elland Road and both by a seven point winning margin. Back in 2005 we beat Canterbury Bulldogs by 39-32 in a free scoring encounter in front of 37,000 people. Last year it was much closer when we managed an 11-4 win over Melbourne Storm in atrocious conditions.
We've won on our last five visits to Elland Road and are unbeaten there in twenty-two years.
Thirteen of the Rhinos squad took part in last seasons victory.
I just have a bad feeling about this. We're not playing well, missing key players, and nursing others back from injury. I'm not sure we're ready to peak like we did last year and just have an incling that we'll slip up. I hope that I am wrong.
Sundays forecast is for cold and a little mist, but we should get away without any rain. What is for sure is that we won't suffer the gale force winds and driving rain that we endured last year.
The bookies have given Leeds a two point start on the coupon and the odds for a Rhinos win outright are 11/10. You can get 16/1 on Rob Burrow as opening scorer on his comeback or 25/1 on Ali Lauiti'iti as an outsider.
Hopefully there will be a great turnout but from some of the panic selling in recent days I am fearful that the support will be down on previous years. Those of you who can get there, make sure you raise your voices and cheer the lads home.
See you there.