Tony Smith welcomed back Danny McGuire and Matt Diskin to his twenty man squad although for Diskin it is a week/fortnight too early as he missed out on the eighteen. As well as McGuire the Rhinos add Kirke to last weeks squad with Willie Poching missing out after picking up a knock last weekend. I'd like to see Ian Kirke get another run out as I think he has done very little wrong so far this season, he just seems to be out of favour with the boss. Expect a McGuire start with Sinfield back at loose-forward after appearing a little uncomfortable at stand-off last weekend at Huddersfield.
Steve McNamara will be hoping for a miracle from a side which has been rocked by the high profile departure of Stuart Fielden and also saw the departure of Paul Johnson to the Wolves during this week. He welcomes back Fat Les after a week off injured. There is some debate about whether the big man will make the final seventeen, and rumours abound that his body is on the verge of calling an end to his career at the age of twenty-seven. The full Bulls eighteen is; Michael Withers, Ben Harris, Shontayne Hape, Lesley Vainikolo, Iestyn Harris, Paul Deacon, Joe Vagana, Ian Henderson, Brad Meyers, Chris McKenna, Terry Newton, Andy Lynch, Andy Smith, Jamie Langley, Karl Pryce, Brett Ferres, Matt James, and Marcus St Hilaire.
With the state of the Bulls finances, I understand that a hefty 'out of court' settlement may have been made in the long-running Harris affair, then these Bradford players may well be looking to put themselves in the shop window and attract the interest of Smith and Hetherington so we can't just expect them to roll over.
Three Bulls to watch;
It's just forty-two days since the Rhinos travelled to Odsal and exceeded all of our expectations with that sensational 30-0 win against an already demoralised Bulls. Since then the Bulls have proved what a topsy-turvey side they are with wins against Huddersfield and Saints, a draw against the Tigers, and most recently a narrow loss against Salford.
McNamara will be telling his side that a win tonight will see them kick into the closing stages of the weekly rounds and build towards the Grand Final, a loss for the Bulls just doesn't bear thinking about as further loss of ground to Salford and Warrington opens up the possibility of the Bulls missing out on the play-offs. Another loss will also further harm the club financially as their fairweather supporters leave them in droves. Average attandances at Odsal are already down around the 10k mark but could drop far further.
There are a few showers forecast for LS6 today, although these should have cleared away well before kick-off leaving behind a fresher and cooler evening for some good flowing open rugby.
The bookies have given the Bulls a ten point start on the handicap coupon and I think that they will be pretty near with that prediction. I fancy the Rhinos to beat the handicap, but not by a great deal. This is unlikely to be a repeat of the nilling that we dished out in late May, unless the Bulls have fallen further than we all think. A too cocky and too confident Rhinos could easily come a cropper to the old enemy.
Fingers crossed that this is another great Headingley night!
There is just a short time left to get your predictions in in the tipping competition.
Enjoy the game.