Tony Smith has laid his cards on the table by naming a strong side. There can only be two reasons for this, and I suspect that the real reason is a combination of the two. The first is that Tony Smith is desperate to get his side gelled from as soon as possible in the season. He means business and will know that another trophyless season will be his last at Headinley. The second is a fear from the money men that they will not cover their costs from a poor attendance as the faithful turn their backs on a glorified A-Team game.
The Rhinos will line up as; Lee Smith, Scott Donald, Clinton Toopi, Ashley Gibson, Danny Williams, Kevin Sinfield, Jordan Tansey, Kylie Leuluai, Matt Diskin, Ryan Bailey, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Ali Lauitiiti, Willie Poching, Ben Kaye, Jamie Thackray, Luke Burgess, Nick Scruton, Ryan Hall. I understand that there is some doubt over whether the 'guest of honour', the now retired Willie Poching, will be fit enough to play. It would be a shame if he didn;t manage a few minutes to get his final plaudits from his adoring Southstand.
The Rhinos are missing the GB, and New Zealand, boys. McGuire, Senior, Ellis and Webb all get a rest for a few more weeks.
Wakefield will give a debut to their new prop forward too as Richard Moore pulls on a Trinity shirt for the first time. The Wildcats line up as; Mark Field, Peter Fox, Jason Demetriou, Kevin Henderson, Austin Buchanan, Paul White, Paul March, Adam Watene, Sam Obst, Ricky Bibey, Duncan Macgillivray, Jason Golden & Dale Ferguson. The Substitutes will be; Matty Blaymire, Luke George, Danny Lima, Richard Moore & Mark Applegarth. The three ex-Rhinos lads will want to make an impression and side looks pretty close to full strength for John Kear.
It should be quite some contest if the two sides approach it with the right attitude.
The Rhinos have had the upper hand in the last two festive challenges. On 2005 the Rhinos won by 42-18 with two tries each for Tansey and Gibson. Back in 2004 the Rhinos won even more comfortably by 46-06. I doubt that the margin on tuesday will be anything like as wide as either of these.
The forecast is for the rain and snow showers but I'd expect the crowd to be sub-10,000 so everyone should be able to get themselves undercover for the match.
This is one of just two home pre-season friendlies, the other being the Keith Senior Testimonial against the Giants in exactly amonths time.
The game kicks-off at 11:30, see you all there.