Brian McClennan has named an unchanged twenty for the third week in succession. The injury that Brent Webb sustained in the win over the Dragons last week was not enough to keep him out of contention, a massive relief to Rhinos fans, and Scruton, Hall and Burgess make up last weeks seventeen to the full twenty. I'd expect Bluey to keep the same seventeen as last week with Scruton being named as eighteenth man when the squads are reduced later today. It should be the same seventeen that triumphed at Old Trafford last October.
Eight of the players who figured in the game on the 4th February 2005 will take part for the Rhinos on friday night. Senior, Sinfield, McGuire, Bailey, JJB, Ellis, Burrow and Lauiti'iti have all tasted WCC glory before and will be building their team mates up to enjoy the occasion.
More seems to have been made of who is not playing, rather than who is playing, for the Storm. Greg Inglis, Michael Crocker and World Player of the Year Cameron Smith are all absent from the visiting party, but New Zealand international scrum-half Cooper Cronk leads out his side into what should be a pretty packed Elland Road. Youngster Will Chambers will try and fill the boots of Matt King (now at Warrington) who figured highly in the Storms 2007 Grand Final win.
The full twenty for the Storm is; Slater, Turner, Chambers, Folau, Quinn, Aitken, Cronk, Lima, Geyer, White, Smith, Hoffman, Johnson, Kaufusi, Blair, Manu, Tagataese, MacDougall, Nielsen, and Tolman.
Melbourne Storm beat Manly in last seasons NRL Grand Final by the impressive score of 34-8, avenging their previous years Grand Final loss to the Brisbane Broncos. In 2007 Melbourne finished top of the NRL table, six points clear of Manly and twelve clear of third placed North Queensland. They lost just three league games all season, and drew once, and won their play-off games at an aggregate score of 110-18. In short, they swept aside all competition and were head and shoulders the best Aussie team in 2007.
With 30,000 tickets sold so far, it look unlikey that the Rhinos will pass the 37,028 that attended that memorable night back in February 2005. With the Elland Road capacity at just over 40,000 the upper tier of the East Stand may look pretty empty, especially as tickets have only gone on-sale there in the last week or so.
From the posts on the message boards it looks like a lot of neutrals will be coming along to support the Rhinos against the convicts and hopefully we can generate a great atmosphere to push the lads to victory.
Melbourne have have had one warm-up game, against Halifax last friday night. While we were hammering the Dragons without really trying, the Storm were struggling to a 26-10 win over last seasons third placed National League one side. Was that game a true reflection of Melbournes preparedness? We'll find out on friday night.
With this still being pre-season for the Aussies, and with Leeds currently at the top of their game and plaing well as a team, I can't see anything other than a Rhinos win. However, if the Storm do play anything like then I expect that we may well be biting out nails right up to the final hooter.
Friday looks like it will be wet, wet, wet, and a bit windy. With that delightful combination there is a chance that you could get a drenching in quite large parts of the stadium.
I'm really looking forward to the game, and to see Sinny holding aloft another piece of silverware wearing the blue and amber ribbons.
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