Leeds Rhinos welcome the only team in Super League with a longer losing streak than themselves to Headingley on Friday night when they play bottom of the league Widnes Vikings. Here’s everything you need to know:
Two changes have been made to the squad that had to settle for a point against Wakefield. Brett Ferres drops out with a knee injury, and is replaced by centre/second rower Jimmy Keinhorst who could make his first appearance since the start of June after recovering from a torn hamstring.
Winger Luke Briscoe comes back in after playing and scoring for Featherstone last week, taking the place of young forward Cameron Smith in the other alteration to the 19.
Matt Parcell could also return from the elbow problem that caused him to miss last week’s game.
Leeds Rhinos 19-man squad: Golding, T. Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Hall, Moon, Myler, Cuthbertson, Parcell, Singleton, Ablett, Ward, Dwyer, Garbutt, Keinhorst, Handley, Walker, Oledzki, Walters, L. Briscoe.
Francis Cummins has made three changes to his squad as he looks to get a win over the club he made 356 appearances for in his playing days.
Stefan Marsh drops out and is replaced on the wing by Patrick Ah Van, while Brad Walker and Weller Hauraki, another ex-Leeds man, are also drafted in as Rhys Hanbury and Sam Wilde are unavailable.
Widnes Vikings 19-man squad: Inu, Runciman, Ah Van, Mellor, Dudson, Houston, Whitley, Craven, Olbison, Leuluai, D. Walker, J. Chapelow, T. Chapelow, Ashall-Bott, B. Walker, Heremaia, Albert, Hauraki, Buckley.
HEAD TO HEAD
Leeds and Widnes have already met twice in 2018, both times at the Halton Stadium, with each side winning one game apiece. Widnes took the first match 23-6 to make it four consecutive wins in home fixtures against the Rhinos, before Leeds put and end to that run with a 23-20 win in Cheshire in the Challenge Cup sixth round.
Widnes’ last win at Headingley came in 2016, when Joe Mellor hit a late drop-goal in a 23-22 win which confirmed Leeds’ place in the Qualifiers. If the Vikings repeat the feat on Friday night, it would again condemn the 2017 champions to a relegation scrap after what has been another disappointing season for the West Yorkshire club.
KEY BATTLE- Ash Handley v Krisnan Inu
Ash Handley continued the renascence of his Leeds career with his tenth try of the season in the 20-20 draw with Wakefield Trinity last week.
The winger turned centre has been impressive since getting back in to the team, looking a much more mature player while his quick, powerful running has proved problematic for opposition defences and has been a good weapon for the Rhinos in a season in which their attack hasn’t been at its most dangerous.
Inu, on the other hand, has been a big miss for Widnes and his long term absence due to a broken leg is undoubtedly a reason for their struggles this year. He returned four games ago and, although he hasn’t yet been able to inspire his side to a win, the Vikings have been much productive in attack and narrowly missed out an at least a point against Hull KR.
The New Zealander scored twice and kicked three goals in Widnes’ win over Leeds back in round three but, thanks to the injury, hasn’t crossed for a four-pointer since mid-March. With a battle to maintain their Super League status coming up, Inu rediscovering his try-scoring form could be crucial to Widnes’ chances of survival, and if he does so on Friday night it could give him and Widnes a much-needed boost heading in to the ‘eights’.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 20th July 2018.
Venue: Emerald Headingley Stadium,
Referee: James Child.
WHO WILL WIN?