Leeds have had the most horrendous year of injuries with almost every key player missing some of the season in the treatment room. The youngsters whio have been brought in, and the experienced players who have managed to keep their fitness have done brilliantly to get us to fourth, and win a home tie in the elimination semi-final. But could this be one game too far?
It has been well documented that we are without Danny McGuire, injured five seconds from the end of the game against the same opposition a fortnight ago. According to Wigan spokesman, Phil Clarke, McGuire got his just deserts for 'cheating', against his beloved Warriors - shocking comments from a 'Try Assist' Trustee - one thing is for sure, we'll miss him on saturday night.
Danny joins Jamie Peacock as two key Rhinos players missing the most important match of the Superleague season. This gives Bluey a massive dilemma; whether to play Sinfield or Webb at stand-off. If he goes for Sinfield then Clarkson will play thirteen. If he goes for Webb then Smith will be at full-back. I've no idea which way the boss will go.
Bailey and JJB are both in contention. The Rhinos nineteen is; Webb, Donald, Delaney, Senior, Hall, Burrow, Leuluai, Buderus, Jones-Buchanan, Lauiti'iti, Sinfield, Diskin, Eastwood, Bailey, Kirke, Ablett, Ambler, Clarkson, and Smith. I suspect that Ambler will miss out, and then any one from Donald, Smith or Ablett.
McClennan has spent the week building up the perfect storm and focussing his players on having a seige mentality. One thing is for sure, they'll die for one another on saturday night, and they won't allow a repeat of that terrible afternoon at Wembley.
Maguire has been boosted by the return of Paul Deacon to his ninteen after he picked up an injury against Leeds and missed out on last weeks win over Hull KR. Wigan looked a different side a fortnight ago when Deacon was on the field and Maguire will get him out there if he possibly can. If he makes it into the seventeen then O'Loughlin will move back to loose forward.
The Warriors have class all over the field and on paper they are favourites over a Rhinos side missing two of their key players. Leeds will need to keep the likes of Sam Tomkins, Leuluai, Deacon and Richards quiet to have any chance, and hope the 'comedy' Fielden has his usual poor game against us.
The Warriors nineteen is; Roberts, Gleeson, Carmont, Richards, S. Tomkins, Leuluai, Fielden, Riddell, Coley, Hansen, J. Tomkins, S. O'Loughlin, Prescott, McIlorum, Paleaaesina, Deacon, Goulding, Farrell, and Tuson.
Three Warriors to watch;
This is Rhinos v. Warriors 'game five' for 2010. So far it is honours even at two each but the games that the Rhinos have won have been by the narrowest of margins whereas the Warriors have won their two games comfortably. Wigan won both league encounters and the Rhinos took the Challenge Cup match-up by just two points.
In the league meeting between the sides at the DW Stadium the Warriors thrashed us by 04-24, but a fortnight ago in that controversy filled game we took the game by a single point. The other seasons meeting was at Headingley six weeks ago ended in easy win for the visitors, this time by 26-12.
Just like a fortnight ago I am tipping a Rhinos defeat as I think that our visitors will just be too strong for us at the end of a tiring and disruptive season. That said, this is a one-off game and with a likely capacity crowd behind us the lads will do everything that they can to get us the win and another trip to Old Trafford in the quest for a fourth consecutive Grand Final win.
The forecast for tomorrow is for a dry day with only a small chnace of rain. Temperatures will struggle to reach 15 degrees and if the rain does keep away it will be perfect conditions for open rugby.
This is the one that really counts. Wigan have far more to lose than we do, and as slight favourites with the bookies they are expected to cap off a great season with a trip to the Grand Final. Hopefully the lads will have something to say about that and after a season where we have really been up against it we can upset the odds and make it four on the bounce.