Leeds Rhinos aiming to deliver a knock-out on Boxing Day

Paul Aiton.
Paul Aiton.
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LEEDS RHINOS will field one of their strongest Boxing Day line-ups in this year’s Heatshot Festive Challenge.

Twelve of the side set to start against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats played in Super League last season.

Papua New Guinea World Cup star Paul Aiton will begin the game at hooker as he makes his first Rhinos appearance against the side he left last month.

He is expected to go head-to-head with Wildcats debutant Paul McShane, who will also be up against his former club.

With Danny McGuire serving a one-game ban, first-choice full-back Zak Hardaker takes over at scrum-half, alongside Yorkshire Evening Post Shooting Star Liam Sutcliffe, who is named as stand-off.

Ben Jones-Bishop will be in the No 1 role, a year and two days after being diagnosed with a serious lung condition which kept him out of action for the first half of 2013.

Last season’s player of the year runner-up Joel Moon will be in the centres and coach Brian McDermott has named a strong pack with Ian Kirke and Ryan Bailey at prop, Chris Clarkson and Brett Delaney in the second-row and Mitch Achurch as loose-forward.

Kirke will celebrate his 33rd birthday on the day of the game.

Centre Thomas Minns and winger James Duckworth – who both made their Super League debut last season, but have not been awarded squad numbers for 2014 – are also in the starting line-up.

The only player without senior experience is former Oulton Raiders youngster Ash Handley, who has been selected on the left-wing, just days after being named in England’s 2014 academy squad.

Handley scored 16 tries in 21 appearances for Rhinos under-19s last season.

McDermott has yet to name his substitutes, but the bench is expected to include members of the academy side which reached this year’s Grand Final.

None of Rhinos’ England World Cup contingent will feature, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Stevie Ward are not yet ready to return after injury and veterans Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai will also sit the game out.

Brad Singleton is unavailable due to a suspension picked up on England Knights duty.

Tickets for Boxing Day are now on sale from the Rhinos and Wildcats box offices with members from both clubs having until 1pm on Christmas Eve to claim a £3 reduction on admission. Tickets prices start from £17 for members, under-16s, £5.

Tom Briscoe.

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