After his starring role in last seasons play-off victory over Wigan Warriors, Danny McGuire is named in the Rhinos ninteen for the first time on his comeback from injury. For many Rhinos, myself included, this is a day that we've been looking forward to since the start of the season, can our talisman help get the Rhinos season back moving in the right direction?
Young winger George Elliot is drafted into the nineteen to cover for Kallum Watkins who picked up an injury in the win at Odsal on thursday night and bt all accounts he's likely to be in the starting line-up as Smith remains on the injury list. Ryan Bailey returns from suspension and is some of the rumours circulating Headingley are to be believed thenn it could be Hauraki and Cross who take a rest today in readiness for the visit to Castleford on friday.
Our long and so far this season fruitless quest for a steady loose-forward appears to be over as Sinfield should step back in there allowing Burrow and McGuire to be reunited at halves. Big Macs ninteen is; Webb, Delaney, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Buderus, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Cross, Bailey, Kirke, Burgess, Hauraki, Clarkson, McShane, and Elliot.
Iestyn Harris returns to Headingley for the first competitive time as a fully-fledged coach after masterminding the Crusaders sensational win over the league leaders on friday. His side have had a day less to recover and Harris has saved Thomas and Flower for todays game after resting them on friday. He is without Mellars, rib injury, abd has a couple of ex-Rhinos in his ranks in Lupton and Tansey.
This afternoons game is a dress rehearsal for the fourth round Challenge Cup tie in twelve days time and will give us some indication of what we can expect then.
Harris names a ninteen of; Schifcofske, Thomas, Martin, Reardon, Witt, Sammut, O'Hara, Bryant, Cahill, Chan, Winternstein, James, Dudson, Hanbury, White, Johnson, Moore, Lupton, and Tansey.
Three Crusaders to keep an eye on;
The Crusaders did visit Headingley for a pre-season friendly back in January, a game which the Rhinos won easily by 32-0. Last season the Crusaders won the game at Headingley by 32-26 after Leeds had won the season opener in Wrexham by 34-06. In 2009, the Crusaders first season in Superleague, the Rhinos won both games comfortably.
You are only as good as your last game though, and by that measure we're in for one hell of a tough afternoon.
I'm going for a Rhinos win this afternoon, with the lads being boosted by the return of the maestro McGuire. The bookies have given the visitors an eighteen point start, exactly what I predicted yesterday in the previews story.
The forecast is for it to not be quite as warm as this weekends heatwave but it will still be pretty pleasant with any rate holding off until much later this evening. It should be a nice shirt-sleeves afternoon.
Travel safe and enjoy the game.