Huddersfield and Leeds, two sides backed to have exciting seasons in 2021, meet in a pre-season Friendly on Sunday as they prepare for the start of the new campaign.
Pre-season hasn’t been plain sailing for the Rhinos however. The 8 time Super League Champions have suffered a number of injuries.
Yesterday Leeds announced their squad for the game against the Giants leaving out a number of stars. So, how will the Rhinos line-up tomorrow.
Fullback: Ash Handley
Super League’s top try scorer last season spent a fair amount of time operating at fullback at academy level. Last season saw the Rhinos number 5 play a couple of games in the position although Leeds lost both. Certainly much more at home on the wing, his pace and power does however make him a threat from the number 1 spot. Richard Agar will be the first to admit this isn’t the ideal situation but with the injuries in his squad it’s a must.
Wingers: Tom Briscoe and Luke Briscoe
With Handley at fullback, the Briscoe brothers will find themselves on the wings. Last season Luke played a handful of games often filling in for his older brother who started 2020 injured. Tom returned in time for the Challenge Cup Final and poached his 7th Wembley try against Salford. He still remains one of Leeds’ first choice wingers. Youngster Liam Tindall will no doubt be close to the starting line-up but he’ll more likely make a cameo off the bench.
Centres: Corey Hall and Jack Broadbent
Heading into the new season, many have wondered which of Liam Sutcliffe, Harry Newman and Konrad Hurrell will be Leeds’ first choice centres in 2021. However, with Newman still recovering from injury, Sutcliffe having to cover elsewhere and Hurrell not risked two youngsters will likely start tomorrow at centre. Corey Hall featured twice for Leeds last term and didn’t look out of place whilst Broadbent played three times even containing the likes of Anthony Gelling with some superb defence.
Halves: Liam Sutcliffe and Richie Myler
This is the set up Leeds have been rolling with in training. With Luke Gale, Robert Lui and Callum McLelland all injured and Kyle Eastmond only weeks into his time at Leeds, Agar has to operate with this duo in the halves on Sunday. Sutcliffe impressed at stand-off when he initially burst onto the scene and before last season Myler was traditionally a scrum-half. However, you can expect him to return to fullback for Round 1 with Agar suggesting Eastmond and Gale will be ready to go against Wakefield.
Props: Mikolaj Oledzki and Zane Tetevano
2020 was a huge season for Oledzki. The Polish prop became one of his side’s go-to big men. He won his first major honour at Wembley and has been tipped to play for England in the World Cup by Barrie McDermott. Joining him is New Zealand international Zane Tetevano. The Kiwi is set to debut for Leeds tomorrow with the number 13 on his back. Given what he achieved in the NRL, you can expect him to impress come Sunday.
Hooker: Kruise Leeming
The former Huddersfield hooker will make his long-awaited return to the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday. Despite an injury hit start to his Leeds career, the Rhinos number 9 went on to impress last season and will kick on again this term.
Second-Rowers: Bodene Thompson and Rhyse Martin
Leeming won’t be joined by fellow ex-Giant Alex Mellor with the second-rower serving a suspension. That means Bodene Thompson will likely start in the back row for Leeds. The former Toronto man made a good impression last season and made a permanent move to Headingley over the off-season. Goal kicker Rhyse Martin is almost a certainty alongside him as he gets up to speed ahead of his second full season at Leeds.
Loose-Forward: Cameron Smith
This was a tough choice between Smith and new father James Donaldson. I’ve gone for Smith who is set for a big season in 2021. Just recently he spoke about his disappointment at being left out of last year’s cup final. He’ll have something to prove and will set out to make a big impression come Sunday.
Substitutions: Brad Dwyer, King Vuniyayawa, Sam Walters, James Donaldson, Jarrod O’Connor, Liam Tindall, Levi Edwards, Morgan Gannon
With this being a friendly, it’s likely that the whole 21 man squad will be given minutes on Sunday. Off-season signing King Vuniyayawa will make his debut off the bench. Challenge Cup winners Dwyer and Donaldson will also be handed minutes. Meanwhile, opportunities will also be given to five youngsters. Last season Sam Walters, Liam Tindall and Jarrod O’Connor – son of former Wigan man Terry – made their debuts. Alongside them are 17 year olds Levi Edwards and Morgan Gannon both of whom are highly thought of at Headingley.