Leeds Rhinos vs Hull KR: Team news, match preview and score prediction

The story going into this one centred around the unthinkable return of Zak Hardaker to Leeds.

After six years away, Hardaker is back at the club until the end of 2022 to give the injury hit Rhinos a boost as they look to pull away from trouble at the wrong end of the table.

The script was written, but now come Friday night there will be no Zak Hardaker in Leeds’ side following a seizure on Tuesday which has seen the fullback medically stood down. This opens the door for Hull KR to make it all about them. They’re the league’s form team and are level points with rivals Hull FC in fourth. Can they keep their momentum going?

Team News

Having been signed to lessen the Rhinos’ availability crisis, Hardaker himself is now unavailable following a seizure this week which has seen him stood down. The Rhinos are also without the injured Liam Sutcliffe and Tom Briscoe. Alex Mellor’s injury has also seen him drop out of the squad having been named in the 21 last week. James Bentley and Zane Tetevano are still suspended leaving Leeds with just 19 players. Leeds have stated that they could recall Levi Edwards from his loan at York. At least the Rhinos have Blake Austin back.

Despite the fact they have a semi-final on the horizon, Tony Smith has still named a strong squad for tomorrow’s game. There is one major absentee in the shape of Kane Linnett. He’s set for a long time out following a torn bicep.

Match Preview – Key Battles:

Blake Austin vs Jordan Abdull: One major boost Leeds have is the return of Blake Austin. After leaving the field against Castleford owing to a head knock, he’s back in contention and may give Leeds’ offence a much needed boost here. But he’ll be up against a complete halfback in the shape of Jordan Abdull. Going under the radar a touch in 2022, he’s still got every tool you’d need at seven and he will be hoping to boss this game.

Brad Dwyer vs Jez Litten: Two number 14s may start at nine tomorrow night setting up a tussle down the middle. Both are very dynamic runners and a serious threat around a quick ruck. Should the game open up around there, what these two do in the big moments will be key.

Cameron Smith vs Elliot Minchella: A pair of Leeds academy products will clash at 13. Both are similar players who combined strength with skill. They’ll both be central to their team’s attack in this fixture and the one who can impact the game more may inspire their side to victory.

Where the game will be won and lost:

The nature of Leeds’ mix and match team means they will have to scrap for everything. Against a dynamic attacking machine like Hull KR, Leeds’ scramble defence will have to be on point here. Leeds will also have to try and get on top of the Robins down the middle of the field with the likes of Mikolaj Oledzki leading the way.

Score Prediction: Leeds Rhinos 18-24 Hull KR

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