Leeds Rhinos host West Yorkshire rivals Castleford Tigers on Friday night in a replay of the 2017 Grand Final.
It will be the first competitive meeting between the sides since the match at Old Trafford which the Rhinos won 24-6 to upset the odds and win an eighth Super League crown.
The game, or ‘The Clash’ as it has been renamed, will be played at Elland Road as Leeds play their second of two games scheduled to take place at the home of Leeds United Football Club due to the redevelopment works at Headingley. Hull KR were the other team to play at the almost 38,000-seater stadium when they visited in early February, a game which the Champions won 20-11.
Both teams go into this fixture in good form, although the Tigers have not played since the 11th March after their game with Wigan last Sunday was postponed as snow meant play was not possible at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
Leeds made it two wins in succession last week as they became the first team to beat St. Helens in the 2018 season with an impressive 28-20 win at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Having also beaten Hull FC the week before, the Rhinos will be hoping to make it three big victories in a row with a win over a Castleford side who they have struggled against in recent years.
Daryl Powell’s team have responded positively to the heavy loss at St. Helens in their opening game of the campaign with three wins in three. A narrow win against Widnes was followed by two comfortable wins over Hull FC and Salford as the 2017 League Leaders’ Shield winners look to get back to the high-quality rugby they displayed for the majority of last year.
The most recent tie was in pre-season, when Castleford managed miserable weather conditions better than their opposition to come out 16-4 winners.
Competitively, it was the afore mentioned Grand Final in which departed Leeds captain Danny McGuire put on a masterclass as he scored to two tries and expertly led his side to another win at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.
That was the first Leeds win over Castleford since Easter 2015. The Tigers went on an eight-game winning run in derbies with the Rhinos, which included 4 wins in a row at Headingley and a massive 66-10 win at the Jungle in the early rounds of 2017.
Despite that, it is still the Rhinos who have the better record since the start of the Super League era with 34 wins from 58 meetings, which have also produced 3 draws.
For the first time this season, Brian McDermott has been able to name an unchanged 19-man squad. Young forwards Cameron Smith and Mikolaj Oledzki keep their places following their strong showings off the bench against Saints, while Brad Dwyer and Jack Ormondroyd are in contention again and will want to play their part after being the two players to miss out last week.
Ashton Golding and Kallum Watkins will have to pass medical tests to prove their fitness after they were forced off with head knocks last Friday.
Castleford have been dealt a blow with the news that Jesse Sene-Lefao was injured in training and will be out for between 4 and 6 weeks due to damaged cartilage in his knee. He is replaced in the squad by Jy Hitchcox in the only change to the 19-man squad named to face Wigan.
Greg Eden, Joe Wardle (both hamstring) and Oliver Holmes (suspension) are 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, Ash Handley, Jack Ormondroyd, Jack Walker, Cameron Smith, Mikolaj Oledzki, Josh Walters.
Castleford Tigers: Ben Roberts, Greg Minikin, Jake Webster, Michael Shenton, Jamie Ellis, Luke Gale, Junior Moors, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Mike McMeeken, Adam Milner, Nathan Massey, Alex Foster, Matt Cook, Gadwin Springer, Jake Trueman, James Green, Jy Hitchcox, James Clare.
Date: Friday 23rd March 2018.
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds.
Referee: Chris Kendall.