It is easy to forget that we actually have four new players, with Thackray and Toopi both getting a few runouts at the end of last season. Kylie Leuluai has a lot to prove to himself and the Leeds supporters but there is wide acknowledgement across the game that the acquisition of Brent Webb is probably the shrewdest bit of business which has been completed during the off-season. Webb looked like a world beater in the Tri-Nations and hopefully he will be a massive star for the Rhinos as he replaces the very popular Richie Mathers.
The Rhinos twenty of; Webb, Donald, Toopi, Senior, Smith, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Diskin, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Sinfield, Lauitiiti, Thackray, Bailey, Scruton, Kirke, Williams, Gibson, Tansey, will be whittled down to eighteen tomorrow. I'd expect to see Tansey and Williams being the first two names omitted with either Smith, Kirke or Scruton being the other to miss out on the seventeen. I am, however, very rarely right when trying to second guess Tony Smiths teams.
Karl Harrison has a lot to live up to after a great Superleague XI for Salford. He needs to continue to build success for the side and a relegation dogfight is unthinkable with the new stadium starting construction in the not too distant future. The Reds twenty is; Hodgson, McGuinness, Moule, Wilshere, Dorn, Robinson, Coley, Alker, Korkidas, Edmondson, Finnigan, Brocklehurst, Haggerty, Adamson, Littler, Gower, Halliwell, Turner, Jewitt, Williams. The close season has seen Salford wave goodbye to eleven players including Dunemann, Jonkers and Lima. They have recruited seven new players, most of whom have heaps of experience and will enhance an already dangerous side. These include; Luke Dorn, Mark Edmondson, Michael Korkidas and Gray Viane.
It is a well known fact that the Reds have never managed a victory against the Rhinos during the Superleague era, although they have come very close on a couple of occasions. The tally is now twenty consecutive Leeds victories, however, the Reds came very close to breaking their duck with a controversial 19-18 loss in the last meeting between the sides at the Willows. What money on another Danny McGuire drop goal winner on sunday?
Three Reds to watch;
We've only seen the real Rhinos once during the friendly season, the side that took the field and trounced the Giants by 50-0. If it is that same Leeds side with that same flare and determination then we should make it home with plenty to spare.
With the season not yet started, and with Salford having such a massive turnover in personnel over the close-season then it is not a simple task to pick a winner or a winning margin. I think that we will have too much in the tank for the Reds, but it won't be a runaway victory.
There should be a great travelling support from Leeds, looking forward to a sunday afternoon out and a good start to the campaign. I'd expect one of Salfords biggest crowds of the season so be sure to get there early to take advantage of the new secure parking. If you are dithering about whether to go, don't...get yourself over there, it should be a belter.
There could be some light rain so it is worth taking a brolly. It will also be very cold so wrap up warm.
The bookies have us with a six point handicap showing that the odds calculators expect that it will be a close one. I'd be taking the Rhinos with that deficit, but not by much.
There are just a few more hours to get your predictions in in the tipping competition.