Leeds Rhinos welcome Huddersfield Giants to Headingley on Friday with both sides looking for their first points of the season. The two teams are the only clubs in Super League to remain winless and both are beset by long injury lists.
The heat is on in this Yorkshire derby, which will be played in front of a record-breaking crowd for this fixture, with both sets of supporters anticipating a first win of the campaign.
An interesting aside is the Brett Ferres saga. This will be the first time the England prop and ex-Giant sees his former colleagues since his dismissal from Huddersfield for off-pitch indiscretions involving a team mate’s wife and a camcorder. Naturally, and quite rightly, both camps point to the rugby and the teams involved, rather than individual players. Having said that, it’ll be interesting to see the first tackles go in and another layer of intensity in what’s likely to be a pressure-cooker atmosphere.
Lining up alongside Ferres in the Rhinos pack is Leeds icon Jamie Jones-Buchanan. One of the club’s most loyal servants and a veteran forward, if involved, JJB will get his first game time since July 2015.
The Rhinos remain without the services of scrum-half Danny McGuire, winger Tom Briscoe, young fullback Ashton Golding, hooker Beau Falloon who are all injured and Mitch Garbutt who misses his second and final match through suspension.
The Giants welcome back talismanic stand-off Danny Brough, but lose fellow halfback Jamie Ellis to a serious shoulder injury. Eorl Crabtree and Craig Huby remain unavailable, along with long term absentees Scott Grix.
Paul Anderson is wary of rushing Brough back – he’ll travel with the squad to Leeds but is being closely watched: “He’s not ahead of schedule or anything like that – we knew he’d had a chance for this week – but we won’t push it at all.
“If he goes out there and tears his quad after suffering a dead leg then he’ll be out for 10 or 12 weeks as opposed to just waiting one more week.
“We’ve got guys who can play in numerous positions but it’s like solving one problem and creating another when you move people around. We’ll see how Broughy comes through, but I’m confident he’ll be right.”
Huddersfield have been something of a bogey team for the Rhinos over the past few seasons, but while both clubs have been ravaged by injuries, the Giants’ squad appears lighter. Roared on in a cauldron of Headingley noise, the men in blue and amber are the likely winners in tonight’s crunch match.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Burrow, Galloway, Cuthbertson, Jones-Buchanan, Sutcliffe, Delaney, Singleton, Keinhorst, Achurch, Mullally, Walters, Handley, Baldwinson, Lilley, Ferres.
Huddersfield Giants: McGillvary, Cudjoe, Murphy, Brough, Hinchcliffe, Lawrence, Patrick, Smith, Rapira, Ta’ai, Connor, Johnson, Leeming, Mason, Roberts, Dickinson, Wood, Foster, Wood.