What can you say about the Celtic Crusaders?
They are having an awful time of it in their first season in Superleague. Anchored to the bottom of the table, rumoured financial problems, and now they have had six of their key players served with deportation papers for visa irregularities. Just when they thought it couldn't get any worse their patched up side of young welshmen have to face a rampant Rhinos who make their way over the border with a nice little seventy-pointer fresh in their memories.
The Crusaders have stuck by John Dixon and rightly so. This weekend he has to choose a side without; Quinn, Van Dijk, Mapp, Hannay, Dalle Cort and Duggan all of whom are awaiting final departure back down-under before they can launch their appeals against their deportation. Full-back, scrum-half, stand-off, two centres and a second rower are simply too many key players to miss and not notice a difference.
The nineteen named by Dixon is; Kear, Tyrer, Chalk, Chan, Blackwood, White, Smith, O'Hara, Budworth, J. James, Flower, Bryant, Beasley, Tangata-Toa, Davies, Mills, Dudson, Bateman, and Lennon. Of these nineteen some five are potentially making their debuts and only three players have a squad number of thirteen or below.
The Rhinos, on the other hand, have just one further absence beyond those long term injured who have been missing for weeks. Bluey has lost Carl Ablett and brings back Ryan Bailey but apart from that he has the benefit of sticking with eighteen of the nineteen and has named; Webb, Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Lauiti'iti, Sinfield, Diskin, Bailey, Burgess, Worrall, Watkins, Manning, and Ratu.
With rumours linking Bailey with Castleford Tigers at the end of this season he could be intent on either convincing Leeds to retain him, or putting himself in the shop window to encourage other sides to show an interest.
Three Rhinos who we'll be relying on;
This is only the third time that we have faced the Crusaders having struggled to a 28-06 win in this seasons opening fixture at Headingley but having won more convincingly 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. After this seasons loss to Salford, the Crusaders are now the only team in Superleague that we have not lost to in the Superleague era.
The biggest problem that we should have tomorrow is keeping motivated adequately to do a top class demolition job on the sorry Welsh lads. With their current turmoil, and if we turn on the style like we did last weekend, then there is every chance that we could be going for a Superleague record score. The previous highest score was 96 by the Bulls against Salford in June 2000 (96-16) with ourselves holding the biggest winning margin of eighty points with the 86-6 over the Giants in 1999. One eye must be on these.
Saturdays forecast is reasonable with a little light rain in the morning clearing in the afternoon. For those of you making the four hour, 230 mile journey, then be safe. Sorry that I am not joining you on this occasion.
The bookies haven't put the odds up yet but expect a record breaking handicap (in the forties) and the Rhinos being a massive odds-on favourite. There will only be value in a Crusaders win where I'd expect you'd get 10/1 to 20/1.
Have a safe trip.