This weekend is more about the excitement of the trip than the excitement of the game, nevertheless there are two points up-for-grabs and the Rhinos need to secure them as they march relentlessly onwards to their second consecutive minor premiership.
Biggest blow for the Rhinos is the absence of skipper Kevin Sinfield, out for up to five weeks after an operation on a damaged thumb. Keith Senior takes over the armband and Rob Burrow is most likely to inherit the kicking duties. The good news is that Matt Diskin will play some part in the game, his first appearance for Leeds since last seasons Grand Final. The Rhinos have taken a bigger than usual squad with Nick Scruton, Francis Cummins and Lee Smith also travelling. There have been some doubts over the availability of Marcus Bai (Visa problems) and I don't know if these have been resolved in time for him to fly out yesterday.
To be honest, Tony Smith could try anything, and probably will.
Tony Rea, fresh from three beatings at the hands of the Rhinos this season, is struggling with availability. John Wells and Danny Williams will miss the game through injury, but Mark McLinden, Feleti Mateo and Filimone Lolohea are all in the 20 man squad. Winning margins of 12, 20 and 58 for the Rhinos so far this season against the Broncos will count for little in the strange conditions this weekend. Rea must hope that the heat and humidity will be a leveller and that his side can get a lot closer to Leeds.
The last time that the side met was just a fortnight ago when Leeds won by 32-12 to make it into the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup. This was a vast improvement for the Broncos over their previous visit which saw them hammered by 64-6 three months ago to the day.
Four wins (including one over Wigan), two draws (Saints and Hull FC), and one loss (to us) in their last seven games means that the London side are far from a walkover, this game is certainly not a 'gimme'.
Three Broncos to watch;
Sitting in the last play-off place in Superleague X, London will be desperate for the two points to keep Wigan in the bottom half of the table for another week. With points difference still likely to play a part in the finals standings, they will fight to the end and the Rhinos will need to be at their best.
The weather, weather in Perpignan looks good for the weekend with sunshine and temperatures around twenty-four degrees at kick-off. Those who are spending some of their time further south in Girona or Barcelona may not fair so well with the weather with some rain and thunder storms being threatened.
The bookies have given London a fourteen point start on the coupon which I believe will be pretty damn close. If I were a betting man I'd take London with that handicap.
It should be a fantastic weekend, and one which has been eagerly awaited by many. It will give us some idea of what to expect for games against 'Les Catalans' from next season. Lets paint the town Blue & Amber, enjoy ourselves, and treat the locals to a large slice of top quality rugby league.
See you all there!