Leeds Rhinos star’s return from injury all but confirmed

Friday night sees the battle of the Smith’s as veteran Tony Smith takes his Hull FC side to Headingley to face his nephew Rohan and the Leeds Rhinos.

Both teams will be seeking improvements from their round one fixtures although it was the senior Smith who will come into this fixture happier given his side’s victory over Castleford at the MKM.

The victory looked comfortable until the 60 minute mark when Castleford sparked a mini comeback but in the end they fell two points shy, meaning Tony Smith kickstarted his era at the Black and Whites with a 32-30 victory.

As for Rohan Smith it was a terrible evening at the Halliwell Jones on opening night as a resurgent Warrington Wolves steamrolled the Rhinos, killing the game off by half-time courtesy of a 30-0 lead.

The Wire ran out 42-10 victors in the end with their pack dominating however there were flashes from the Rhinos including new signing Justin Sangare, who Smith will look to in round two.

He has named Sangare in the squad however it’s another new name that will catch the headlines as the Leeds fans will get a first sight at Papua New Guinea star Nene Macdonald.

Macdonald arrived from Leigh in the off season but has yet to be seen in the amber and blue following an injury that he sustained at the World Cup when representing PNG.

His addition to the squad will be huge news and a huge benefit to Smith’s plans as he had to use a make shift centre pairing last week in which all five backs seemed to assume the role.

Typically it was Ash Handley and David Fusitu’a who played in the outside back roles but the return of Macdonald will allow one of those to revert to the wing.

The Rhinos are still without Harry Newman, Mikolaj Oledzki, James Bentley, Luke Hooley and Max Simpson through injury.

Speaking to the press, Rohan Smith revealed that he has “a good chance” of playing.

Smith said: “He’s a good chance. He has ticked off all the return to play measures and the healing time which is one of perimeters. He has done all of his healing time and has been in and amongst the team for quite a while.”

Smith reiterated that he may not play centre: “You’re assuming he is going to play centre. I have said before I see him as a centre or a winger.

“He played wing and fullback in Australia. He played centre last year for Leigh but if he’d have played on the wing he would have had a big year too.”

He also explained that he felt his side’s centres weren’t the problem against Warrington:

“I thought our centres did a decent job. They weren’t the hub of our issues.”

Now though MacDonald’s debut and return from injury has all but been confirmed as he told Leeds Rhinos YouTube channel about his excitement ahead of his debut:

“I’m pretty excited, I’ve just had a big session out there with the boys so I’m feeling really good. It’s good to get that flow going and to get back out there, so if I’m a chance of playing then I’m pretty excited.

“The physios have been really looking after me off the field, and getting me back on the field.

“It was pretty tough missing out on playing. Obviously we’ve been making a big bond over this pre-season with the boys and watching them out, I just really wanted to get out there. If I get the chance this weekend it’ll be really exciting.

“It’s a great back line, it’s got a lot of star players there so for me to join this team and that calibre of players I’m excited.

“Obviously I’ve heard lots of talks about how packed it gets and how passionate the Leeds fans are, so I’m excited to see that.”

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