The Rhinos take on the Bulls who, after a fraught twelve months, finally seem to be getting back on their feet both on and off the field. Ex-Rhinos stalwart Francis Cummins is now at the helm as seems to have galvanised a hotch-potch squad into a pretty decent side. Despite playing mostly 'bottom half' opposition so far this season they do have the impressive scalp of the league leaders Huddersfield Giants tucked under their belts after a great 43-18 win at the John Smiths Stadium earlier in the month.
Cummins, on his first visit to his old home as a first team coach, is also boosted by the return of Lulia, Langley and Blythe who all missed last weeks defeat in France. He is also likely to be able to call on the services of goal kicking machine Jamie Foster who is expected to have shaken off an ankle injury.
Cummins names a nineteen containing three ex-Rhinos as; Donaldson, Sidlow, Langley, Manuokafoa, Bateman, Diskin, Kearney, Scruton, L'Estrange, Purtell, Lulia, Whitehead, Kear, Sammut, Addy, Olbison, Walker, Blythe, and Foster.
With the apparent recovery of Ablett and Delaney it seems likely that big Mac will choose the same seventeen, from the same nineteen, that overcame the Warriors and were picked for last weeks twice-aborted trip to Wakefield.
The Rhinos are now two-games behind all of those above them and if both (v. Widnes and v. Wakefied) had been twelve point victories we'd be sat at the top of the pile. A win tonight will left us to sixth and leave us perfectly poised for an assault on the top of the league.
There is still no sign of a return for Hardaker or Jones-Bishop and so the named nineteen is; Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, McShane, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Ward, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Moore, and Vickery.
The Bulls last beat us at Headingley two years ago when five goals from now departed Patrick Ah Van gave the Bulls an 18-12 win. Leeds won two out of the three meetings last season with a 34-16 win at Headingley following on from a 37-22 win in the 'On the Road' game at the Etihad in Manchester. Back in April some 21,000 had watched a shocker with the Bulls winning by 12-4 in the Easter game at Oldslum.
The Rhinos have the chance to level the overall score in terms of regular season Superleague wins between the two sides. At the moment it stands one game in the Bulls advantage at 24-23 (with two games drawn).
This should be a game that the Rhinos win, but I won't be underestimating threat from a fired up Bulls with a coach who has a great understanding of the inner working of his previous employers. Brian McDermott will know that his side will need to be at the top of their game tonight and I expect it to be a close one, despite the bookies giving the visitors a twelve point start on the coupon.
Todays' forecast for today and tonight is pretty grim with the chance of snow all day and an increased likelihood later tonight. The pitch, with its state of the art undersoil heating should be fine, but cold hands could lead to a lot of mistakes and some jumping on the spot in the terraces. The lads will be looking forward to jetting off to France where temperatures today are in the mid to late teens.
I'm hoping that it will be a game to 'warm the cockles', keep the hands warm with plenty of applause, and see us finish the night with another two points in the bag.
Enjoy the game.