The top two in the Qualifiers meet as Leeds host Salford. Here’s everything you need to know…
Leeds’ injury crisis continues as Stevie Ward is ruled out after being unable to recover from an ankle injury he suffered in defeat to Hull KR two weeks ago – the only loss in four Qualifiers fixtures for the Rhinos.
Kevin Sinfield makes just one change to the side that beat Widnes 16-6 last week, with Adam Cuthbertson coming into the side and Anthony Mullally dropping out.
Leeds have struggled with a lot of long-term injuries including Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall and Carl Ablett who are all out with knee injuries. The Rhinos are also missing Brett Delaney, Mitch Garbutt and Ash Handley.
Leeds 19-man squad: T. Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Moon, Myler, Cuthbertson, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Dwyer, Keinhorst, Ferres, Peteru, Walker, Smith, Oledzki, Walters, L. Briscoe, Crosby, Thompson.
Salford Red Devils
Ian Watson named his 19-man squad for the clash with Leeds, and has been forced into two changes from the side that made it four wins out of four with victory over Toronto last Saturday.
Luke Burgess and Jackson Hastings received red cards for high tackles in that game, and miss out here as a result. Forward Burgess is suspended for this game only, while more crucially their playmaker Hastings, who has inspired a brilliant upturn in form since his arrival, received a two-match ban and will also miss the visit to London.
Jack Littlejohn returns to the side after recovering from a bicep injury and could play for the first time since June. Ryan Lannon and George Griffin have kept their places in Watson’s side after stellar performances last week.
Salford 19-man squad: Welham, Sa’u, Evalds, Lui, Littlejohn, Kopczak, Griffin, Jones, Flanagan, Tasi, Lannon, McCarthy, Wood, Olpherts, Mossop, Bibby, Chamberlain, Burke, Lussick.
These two sides have played each other twice this year in the regular Super League season.
The first fixture between these two sides came in Round nine at Headingley, when Leeds nilled an out-of-form Red Devils side with tries from Tom Briscoe, Ash Handley and Josh Walters in a 20-0 win.
The return fixture was quite the opposite, however, and took place in the final round of the regular season. Salford, inspired by new singing Hastings on his brief debut, produced a superb 80 minutes to win 38-22 with Ryan Lannon, Niall Evalds (2), Hastings, Ed Chamberlain, Robert Lui and Josh Jones getting the tries for the victors.
Leeds were very poor at home in Super League this year with only four wins out of the possible 11, against Hull KR, Hull FC, Widnes and Salford.
KEY BATTLE – Richie Myler vs Robert Lui
Although these players play in different positions, they both act as playmakers for their sides. They direct the majority of the traffic during the game and are crucial in creating any chances.
Richie Myler, who plays at scrum-half, has been key for Leeds this year after joining from the Catalans Dragons. His unpredictable kicking is vital in Leeds’ attack, combining high spiraling balls with accurate grubber kicks to allow the Rhinos’ defensive line to push forward and gain more possession. Despite some criticism the stats show the impact he has, registering 23 try assists in 20 regular season games.
Robert Lui usually plays stand-off and has been almost ever-present this season, and his consistently fantastic performances show why he is deserving of playing within his side. In attack, Lui has put forward 114 attacking kicks, assisted in nine tries and got six of his own. He puts his big physique to good use in defence as well, making 411 tackles this year with 52 marker. Lui is also the first-choice kicker for his side.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 14th September
Venue: Emerald September
Referee: James Child