Rick Stone became the first coaching casualty of the new Super League season, with heavy defeats to Hull KR and Wigan signalling the end of his time in West Yorkshire. He leaves the Giants in 11th place with just two wins so far this season.
Chris Thorman takes temporary charge and his first challenge has been putting together a squad at all, with the side suffering a major injury crisis.
Jake Mamo, Leroy Cudjoe and Tommy Symonds were already on the sidelines, and they’ve now been joined by a further five who have been ruled out this week.
The biggest is England star Jermaine McGillvary, who could miss two months with an ankle injury. Lee Gaskell misses out after the infection of an elbow cut on an advertising hoarding at Wigan, and Kruise Leeming is being rested as the club monitor his fitness.
The Giants are also without Dale Ferguson (calf) and Sam Wood (knee).
In their place comes the returning Ollie Roberts, along with Tyler Dickinson, Jared Simpson, and young duo Sam Hewitt and Louis Senior who could make their debuts.
Huddersfield 19-man squad: Turner, Murphy, Brough, Ikahihifo, Lawrence, Hinchcliffe, Rankin, Roberts, Ta’ai, Clough, Smith, Walne, O’Brien, Mellor, McIntosh, Dickinson, Simpson, Hewitt, Senior.
Leeds come into this derby on the back of that stunning match at Elland Road against Castleford, where they came back from 24-0 down but agonisingly lost 25-24.
However, that fightback, following on from the impressive victory at table-topping St Helens, is evidence that the Rhinos should still be very much in contention come the end of the season.
They have had something of an injury crisis themselves this season, with Liam Sutcliffe (foot), Adam Cuthbertson (hand), Stevie Ward (calf), Mitch Garbutt (knee), Jimmy Keinhorst (knee) and Nathaniel Peteru (bicep) all still missing.
They have had one piece of good news this week though, as Brett Ferres returns for the first time since the Grand Final after knee surgery, replacing Jack Ormondroyd in the preliminary 19.
The host of injuries has meant Brian McDermott has had to put faith in youth and they have repaid him impressively, particularly Ash Handley who has scored four tries in the last two games.
Another stepping up has been Cameron Smith, who could face his older brother Daniel, who is in the Giants squad.
Leeds 19-man squad: Golding, Briscoe, Watkins, Hall, Moon, Myler, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Dwyer, Delaney, Mullally, Ferres, Handley, Walker, Smith, Oledski, Walters.
HEAD TO HEAD
The three clashes between the two sides last season all served up real treats, full of big hits and hard-fought contests.
Leeds won at the John Smith’s Stadium 28-12 in the regular season and then 36-12 in the final fixture of the Super 8s, while in between Huddersfield pulled off a famous 31-12 victory at Headingley. Leeds scored 11 tries on this ground last season, with ten different try scorers.
KEY BATTLE- Jordan Turner v Kallum Watkins
Kallum Watkins has stepped up since receiving the armband at the start of the season, and now looks very much the leader and biggest star of this Rhinos side.
In the last few games he has been sensational, particularly against Castleford, where he inspired their comeback with strong carries and two tries.
Huddersfield’s left edge defence will have to be far better than in the last two games; they conceded all six tries on that side against Hull KR and three in the first half at Wigan, which saw that contest put to bed before the ref had even blown for half-time.
The absence of Sam Wood at left centre, among others, gives Thorman a tough rearranging task, with the most likely line-up seeing Alex Mellor paired with Jordan Turner in the centres.
If that is the case, Turner will have a big job in keeping the Leeds captain at bay, as will the opposite centre with the form of Ash Handley.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 30th March
Venue: John Smith’s Stadium
Referee: Jack Smith
WHO WILL WIN?
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