Leeds Rhinos: Training has been ruined – Mac

More than three-quarters of Leeds Rhinos' planned on-field training sessions have been cancelled due to this winter's bad weather.

That is a "concern" for new coach Brian McDermott, who will take charge for the first time when Rhinos face Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Headingley Carnegie tomorrow in their opening pre-season game.

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The match was due to be staged on Boxing Day, but had to be put back due to a frozen pitch.

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After a difficult build-up, McDermott reckons the delay has actually worked in his players' favour, as this week's warmer temperatures have given them an opportunity to practice outdoors.

"It has been a bit of a blessing in disguise," said McDermott, who plans to field the squad originally named for Boxing Day.

"Last week our final couple of (training) sessions were on artificial turf, on different size fields.

"This week we have managed to get out on to grass, which – even if it is wet or cold – is very, very different.

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"It has given us some extra preparation and it has made a difference running on grass – you can't beat that."

McDermott has been trying to make his own mark on the Leeds squad and he admitted snow and frozen grounds have made that tough.

"Out of the 20 planned field sessions before Boxing Day, we got out on grass four times," he revealed.

"That's not good for the long-term development of British kids. I am concerned for Leeds Rhinos and I am also concerned for some of the juniors coming through – for the quality of their skills further down the track.

"Getting outside for four sessions out of 20 just is not adequate. We do have the use of a 3g field and indoor facilities, but it is just not the same.

"It is an obstacle we have had to overcome."

Rhinos' players were due to have this week off, but the break was cancelled when the game was rearranged.

"They did have Christmas off," said McDermott.

"The call was made on Friday morning, so everybody had Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day off.

"The majority of them weren't going to get that. Some of them may have planned something for new year, but they had Christmas off instead, so it's not a huge disadvantage."

Rhinos will field a strong squad tomorrow, including recruits Zak Hardaker, Ben Cross and Weller Hauraki, plus nine members of last year's Challenge Cup final team.

Only long-term casualties Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock are ruled out, alongside recovering trio Keith Senior, Kylie Leuluai, Chris Clarkson and Danny Buderus, who is set to return from paternity leave in Australia this weekend.

"Because of what has gone on we have to be careful not to expect too much," cautioned McDermott.

"The fellas want to get out there and everybody's keen to play.

"I would hope we are going to see some of the adjustments Jimmy (Lowes) and I as coaches and Jason (Davidson) as conditioner have been making

on show.

"We will give everybody a run and people will play in different positions throughout the game, though some will get more game time than others.

"The result does not concern me, we want something to look back on as a

bit of as coaching tool."

Luke Ayling.

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