Leeds Rhinos host Wigan Warriors this Friday down at Headingley Stadium. The Rhinos are in-form at the moment, winning their last three games. While Wigan are looking for their first win in three attempts. It’s always a blue-ribbon affair between these two great sides, and I can’t see why this weeks won’t be any different.

LAST TIME OUT

Leeds come into this game on the back of a 28-12 win against fellow rivals, Huddersfield Giants. It was a bright start from Leeds, as they threw the ball around with confidence, and would get the first try of the game through Tom Briscoe. That was soon followed up by a Ryan Hall try, and Leeds led 10-0. But the Giants hit back with two tries of their own. First, a great inside pass from Lee Gaskell found Ukuma Ta’ai who dove over for an easy four points. Next was the customary Jermaine McGillvary try, and suddenly, Leeds were 12-10 down. However, this was the only time that Huddersfield would lead, as Leeds hit back, and hit back well. The Rhinos would go over for two more tries before halftime, through Carl Ablett and Matt Parcell, to give them a 18-12 lead. It was the Leeds show in the second half as they took control of the game, and after the double sin-bin of Danny Brough and Carl Ablett, they strolled to victory. Leeds would kick two penalty goals to stretch their lead to 22-12. Late on Jordan Baldwinson would go over and add further hurt to the Giants, as Leeds would record a 28-12 win, and make it three on the spin.

Wigan go into the game on the back of a narrow 22-20 defeat, to the hands of Hull FC. It was always going to be a struggle for Wigan, who went into the game missing 13 first team players. Wigan started well, but a superb 10-minute spell for FC, knocked Wigan and their fans for six. Hull would go over three times in that great spell, with tries from Steven Michaels, Albert Kelly and Jake Connors which gave Hull an 18-0 halftime lead. Straight from the kick-off, Hull were over again, this time through an 80-metre effort, that was finished off from Jamie Shaul, which gave Hull a 22-0 lead. There seemed no way back for Wigan, but they gave it a good go. Wigan finally got on the board in the 53rd minute, when Liam Forsyth went climbed highest, and went over for his first ever Wigan try. The game went quiet for about 1-0 minutes, then Wigan hit their stride. They would go over for three tries in a eight minutes through George William, Tom Davies and Liam Marshall. Two missed conversions cost Wigan on the night, as they would go on to lose 22-20. But the effort and desire shown by the depleted Warriors, was to be admired.

KEY BATTLES

The most intriguing battle on Friday night will be that of the two hookers. Sam Powell has turned into a great player for Wigan. Having to change his position and come in for the injured McIlorum last February, he’s done an unbelievable job, and made that position his own. As for Mat Parcell, he came into a struggling, and under pressure Leeds side, with little experience. However, he looks to have moulded into the side early on and become very important player for the Rhinos.

It’s going to be a huge battle between the two sets of forward packs. Leeds have the likes of Adam Cuthbertson, Carl Ablett, Brett Ferres and Jones-Buchanan. They’ll be going up against the likes of Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Ben Flower, Taulima Tautai and Tony Clubb. Both teams have huge power in their ranks. Both have players who can change the game and the battle down the middle will prove pivotal, and whichever forward pack can make the most metres for their backs, will go a long way in wining this one.

With Joe Burgess and Lewis Tierney still out through injury, it’s another chance for Liam Marshall and Tom Davies on the wings. Both have come in, and have scored seven tries between them, in three games. This week, they’ll be coming up against some real strong left and right-edges in the Rhinos. Last week against Hull, they struggled early on, but adapted for the second half. They’ll need to be ready from the get go this week, as they can’t afford to give away a big lead again.

PREDICTION

I think this will be a very good game. Leeds are playing well, and at home. While Wigan have hit a little blip, but have a couple players back this week, and look stronger.

Wigan Warriors by 10

 PRE-GAME MEDIA

Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott:

“We’ll savour that (on beating Huddersfield). It’s a decent position to be in but I don’t think we’re rolling our shoulders at being there after the last 18 months.”

“We’ve a big one at our place against Wigan.”

“It is good to have Brett back available this week. Jordan has done a great job in the last few weeks and he will continue his development with Featherstone Rovers this weekend.”

Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane:

“Despite the injuries, we could have taken something from Hull last week. Leeds are a good team with some great athletic individuals. Our defence has to be better.”

“Leeds have their confidence back and they will be difficult to beat, especially at home. If there is any place where you need to start well, its Leeds at Headingley.”

“Leeds played well against Huddersfield. They threatened a lot with their second phase play.”

 SQUAD NEWS

Leeds Rhinos welcome back forward Brett Delaney, who comes in for Jordan Baldwinson. Leeds are without Keith Galloway and Stevie Ward through injury, who are both nearing a return to action, whilst Brad Singleton serves his third game of his six-game suspension.

Oliver Gildart, Ryan Sutton and Liam Farrell come back into the 19-man squad, replacing Joe Bretherton, Callum Field and Josh Ganson. Anthony Gelling and Ben Flower both left the action early against Hull but have been given the green light to play.

SQUADS

Leeds Rhinos: Carl Ablett, Tom Briscoe, Jamie-Jones Buchanan, Rob Burrow, Adam Cuthbertson, Brett Delaney, Brett Ferres, Mitch Garbutt, Ashton Golding, Ryan Hall, Ash Handley, Jimmy Keinhorst, Danny McGuire, Joel Moon, Anthony Mullally, Matt Parcell, Liam Sutcliffe, Josh Walters and Kallum Watkins.

Wigan Warriors: Tony Clubb, Tom Davies, Morgan Escaré, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Liam Forsyth, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Nick Gregson, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Romain Navarrete, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Joel Tomkins and George Williams.

MATCH DETAILS   

Referee: Ben Thaler

Venue: Headingley Stadium, Leeds

Date/Time: Friday 31st March 2017 – 20:00pm GMT