Once again Tony Smith has left Jamie Thackray and Ryan Hall out of the eighteen. Admittedly Thackray made a few mistakes against Hull FC but there must be more to his repeated ommission than a few dropped balls. I think that he'd give us a lot more up-front than Ian Kirke who has, at best, been pedestrian over the last couple of weeks.
According to a recent SKY article by Barrie McDermott, Leeds need to beat Wigan in the pack to have a chance of winning, and out of the named eighteen it is widely speculated that Ryan Bailey will get a recall after being eighteenth man for the last two games. The man likely to miss out this week will be Jordan Tansey, giving us more options in the all-important pack.
Brian Noble has caused us so many problems over the last few years at both Bradford and now Wigan but he will be concerned over the loss of ex-Rhino favourite Mark Calderwood who broke his anke at the KC Stadium last sunday. His charges have also had a day less than us to recover from what was a very intense game on Humberside.
The only ex-Leeds man to figure will be Shane Millard who must count himself extremely lucky not to have picked up a ban after a shocking late elbow last saturday. Noble has named his eighteen as; Phil Bailey, Pat Richards,Trent Barrett, Thomas Leuluai, Stuart Fielden, Mickey Higham, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Gareth Hock, Bryan Fletcher, Sean O’Loughlin, David Vaealiki, Shane Millard, Paul Prescott, Harrison Hansen, Darrell Goulding, Danny Hill, Liam Colbon, Eamon O’Carroll.
Three Warriors to watch;
Our record in 2007 against the Warriors is totally abysmal, with a two point loss back in Superleague in April that humiliating cup defeat at Headingley in May, and a shocking 18-02 loss at the JJB in July.
This is the fifth play-offs encounter between the two sides with Wigan having won all but one, the last meeting between the sides. In 2004 the Rhinos won 40-12, but in 2003 we lost 23-22, in 2002 we lost 41-18 and in the Grand Final itself in 1998 we lost 10-04. It's not the best record but we're due a win not having beaten the Warriors since June 2006, Brian Nobles first Wigan v. Leeds game in charge.
Wigans adversity this season (the four point deduction for cheating in 2006) seems to have rallied their supporters and it has been reported that they have sold their entire third allocation for tonights game and will be bringing in excess of 6,000 across the M62.
We can definitely win this, but if Wigan are in the same frame of mind as they have been for the last two weeks, and they get the luck, then so could they. Defeat would be the latest installment in a long running series of under-achievement, and Tony Smith will leave a broken side as a broken man. The very least he, we and the players expect is a Grand Final match up with the Saints.
The forecast is for unseasonably warm weather with very little chance of rain. It's a suitable forcast for what should be a stormer of a game.
The bookies have given the visitors an eight point start, which I think is very generous. I think that they'll get inside that and at 2/1 I'd be lumping my wedge on them. I just hope that we can get a decent early lead and hold onto it better than Bradford did.
This is the one, possibly your last chance for rugby until boxing day, so get yourself to HQ tonight and give the lads everything that you've got.