While not the finished article, the Rhinos looked pretty strong against the Wolves last week. Just a six point win was a bit of a travesty in a game which we dominated for long periods. The defence was excellent with just a couple of lapses costing us tries, but our inability to convert pressure into points was a little frustrating.
Tom Briscoe, equal top try scorer in Superleague XIX, is increasingly looking like a sound investment and he will be keen to add to his current haul of four tries in two games in Blue and Amber.
The only change in McDermott's ninteen is the recall of Liam Sutcliffe after playing in the Academy game last week. It's likely that he's in the squad as a direct replacement for the skipper, should he fail to make the starting side. The full nineteen is; Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield, Ward, Delaney, Bailey, Clarkson, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, and Singleton.
Catalans Dragons coach, Laurent Frayssinous, has a number of headaches with his team selection as he has a raft of injuries and suspensions to cope with. The home side are without some big names for the Rhinos visit including; Pomeroy, Cardace, Dureau and Duport (all injured) along with the suspended Elima and Bousquet. Louis Anderson only arrived back in Perpignan today after two months back home in Australia on compassionate leave and is unfit for first team action.
The Catalans will likely see Baile, Vaccari and Simon make their first appearances of 2014 as they are called into the nineteen of; Webb, Escare, Pryce, Oldfield, Bosc, Henderson, Lima, Taia, Mounis, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Simon, Fakir, Paea, Baitieri, Baile, and Vaccari.
This will be the eighteenth regular round meeting between the two sides with the Rhinos currently having a 13-4 lead. The Dragons have won all four of their games against Leeds at home and honours stand at 4-4 for games played in France.
The last time that the sides met was at Headingley last August where the Rhinos were triumphant by 20-12. The last time that Leeds visited the south of France was back in April of last year when a virtuoso Sinfield kicking performance (7 goals and a drop goal) secured a 27-12 win, despite Ryan Baileys red card early in the second half.
Given the depleted Catalans side and their poor start to the year, I would expect that this is a game that we should win, and by quite some margin. The bookies have given the home side a ten point start on the coupon but I would hope that we can do a little better than that.
A win by more than forty-six points is very unlikely but would see us top of the table, as long as Hull KR don't capitulate against the Tigers.
If you are down in Perpignan then you probably already know that the forecast is for wall to wall sunshine and a very pleasant late teens temperature.
Enjoy the weather, enjoy the match.