Rohan Smith explains surprise selection choice as Kruise Leeming drops to the Leeds Rhinos bench

Rohan Smith announced his team for tonight’s clash against the Catalans Dragons with Jarrod O’Connor starting at hooker and captain Kruise Leeming starting on the bench.

With no Brad Dwyer, Leeming is expected to be that impetus off the bench going forward in attack with Smith hailing O’Connor’s defensive prowess.

“I thought it was best for our rotation this week to get started with a real strong defensive performance from Jarrod and I look forward to Kruise coming on when the time is right,” Smith said before the game.

“We are excited by who is out there and that’s all that matters.”

Dwyer took a bang to his knee in the win over the Castleford Tigers last week and thus didn’t just quite make it for tonight’s clash, though O’Connor has started at hooker prior to this game and did so in the win at the Stade Gilbert Brutus earlier in the year when Leeds mounted that famous comeback.

Ash Handley will also sit this one out, with the latter ruled out with a broken metatarsal whilst Rhyse Martin is of course banned.

Blake Austin does in fact start! After not being pictured in the team photo at Leeds-Bradford airport, there were fears he too had been left home, but he starts alongside Aidan Sezer in the halves.

Richie Myler starts at fullback with Zak Hardaker in the centres whilst Morgan Gannon and James Bentley occupy the back-row. Cameron Smith is also in at loose-forward with Zane Tetevano starting on the bench.

There is also a place on the bench for young Sam Walters who will be hoping to make an impact against a huge Catalans pack.

The Dragons, meanwhile, welcome back their talismanic number one Sam Tomkins.

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