Leeds return to Headingley on Friday after playing their first ‘home’ game of the season at Elland Road as they take on Steve McNamara’s struggling Catalans.
Should the game go ahead, which is doubtful due to the bad weather brought by the ‘Beast from the East’ according to Leeds CEO Gary Hetherington, it will be the first time the Rhinos will have played at the newly named ‘Emerald Headingley Stadium’ since the 18-16 win over Hull FC in last season’s Super League semi-final. A decision on whether or not the match will be played is likely to be made on Thursday morning.
Headingley is still undergoing redevelopment work, with the old North and South Stand’s demolished to make way for the new look structures. While neither are yet complete, a temporary North Stand has been put in place in time for the return of rugby league action at Headingley and there is expected to be around 2000 spectators watching the action from a reduced capacity South Stand.
Leeds were beaten for the first time in Super League last weekend after they went down 23-6 at Widnes as they tasted defeat for the fourth successive season at the Halton Stadium, but will want to react positively and avoid falling into somewhat of an early season slump following the loss to Melbourne in the World Club Challenge two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the Dragons suffered their fourth loss in as many games as they narrowly lost out 14-16 to Wakefield at the Stade Gilbert Brutus as their difficult start to the season continued. Although it is still early in the season, Catalans will need to see a turnaround in results soon if they are to ease fears of a second straight year in The Qualifiers.
The most recent meeting came in the South of France last May, when a late Danny McGuire try earnt Leeds, missing Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall due to England’s mid-season international, a dramatic 24-30 win. The Rhinos came out on top in both meetings between the two sides in 2017, as they won the Headingley meeting by a scoreline of 46-10.
However, the Dragons had won the previous three meetings between the two sides before last season, doing the ‘double’ over Leeds in 2016 with hard fought home and away wins and then a resounding 46-16 home win in the 2015 Super 8’s.
Overall, the Rhinos and the Dragons have met 30 times, and it’s Leeds who comfortably have the upper hand with 22 wins and just 8 losses.
Leeds should see Tom Briscoe, Ryan Hall, Joel Moon and Carl Ablett all return after they were all missing last week due to illness and injury. Liam Sutcliffe (foot) and Jimmy Keinhorst (knee) both picked up injuries at Widnes so are ruled out this week. They are replaced in the 19-man squad by Jordan Lilley and Anthony Mullally, who has missed the last two matches because of a fractured finger.
The Dragons have made just one change to their 19-man squad, with ex-Rhinos hooker Paul Aiton, who has made just 1 appearance this so far this campaign, coming in to take the place of Iain Thornley. Jodie Broughton, Samisoni Langi, Luke Walsh, Vincent Duport and Antoni Maria all miss out.
The 19-man squads in full are:
Leeds Rhinos- Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall, Joel Moon, Richie Myler, Matt Parcell, Brad Singleton, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Brad Dwyer, Brett Delaney, Anthony Mullally, Mitch Garbutt, Ash Handley, Jack Ormondroyd, Jordan Lilley, Mikolaj Oledzki, Josh Walters.
Catalans Dragons- David Mead, Brayden Williame, Fouad Yaha, Remi Casty, Paul Aiton, Sam Moa, Louis Anderson, Benjamin Garcia, Greg Bird, Julian Bousquet, Mickael Simon, Jason Baitieri, Thibaud Margalet, Michael McIlorum, Lewis Tierney, Benjamin Jullien, Lucas Albert, Alrix Da Costa, Tony Gigot.
Date: Friday 2nd March 2018.
Venue: Emerald Headingley Stadium.
Kick-off: 19:45 pm.
Referee: James Child.