Any news from the Rhinos camp has been overshadowed by the sacking of coach John Kear at the KC Stadium. The coach that brought Hull FC their first glory for two decades, has been ousted just over seven months after coaching his side to the narrowest of one-point wins. There had been rumours of disquiet in the club, and a failure of Kear to sign a new contract that he'd been offered, but his departure still shocked the watching rugby league world. An approach has been made to Bradford to secure the services of Steve McNamara, but this is a long way from fruition.
Tony Smith takes a side which welcomes back Millard, Walker and Poching to the twenty, and with all three likely to play some part in the game, it looks like it will be Gibson, McAvoy and either Scruton or Kirke who miss out. There is still no place for Jamie Jones-Buchanan, and it would be nice to think that Chev Walker may settle his differences with the club and put pen to paper on a new contract in the not too distant future. Three players currently lead the SS.com Player of the Season vote and no one will be suprised that it is McGuire, Sinfield and Burrow who are battling it out for this years honour. They will all be looking to pick up top points on friday night.
Stand-in coach Richard Agar has named his twenty man squad to include; Briscoe, Brough, Carvell, Chester, Cooke, Dixon, Domic, Dowes, Hill, Horne, King, Lupton, Radford, Raynor, Swain, Thackray, Tony, Wheeldon, Whiting and Yeaman. It is a side with plenty of strength in depth, and one which should put up more resistance than they did in getting humiliated by 46-0 against Saints in round seven. You can rest assured that they can't play that badly at home again.
The Rhinos have never lost at the KC, and opened up last years Superleague campaign with a 16-12 win. In the return fixture at Headingley we were 34-14 winners. The only blot on the Rhinos copybook was that bitter disappointment at Cardiff...still, we are still in the running for a return visit to the final, whereas our opponents on friday are not!
Three Airlie Birds to watch;
On paper this should be a walkover for the Rhinos...but Hull FC are a side who always raise their game for Leeds visit. With four ex-Rhinos in their ranks, and the confidence of knowing that they can beat us when the chips are down, means that this could be a fair old tussle. I still expect that we'll be too strong for them and leave with a relatively comfortable win.
The forecast is for showers in the morning but clearing up in time for kick-off. One thing is for sure...the pitch can't be any worse than it was last week at Leigh.
The bookies have given the Rhinos a ten point start, but I think that we'll be able to beat that handicap. A better bet might be Danny McGuire as first try scorer at 10/1 (he won me a tidy sum being first over the line against the 'Quins at 12/1 a fortnight ago) or perhaps Kevin Sinfield to repeat his opening scoring feat from last weekend at 20/1.
There is just a short time left to get your predictions in in the tipping competition.
Have a safe journey over, and enjoy the game.