On-going injuries have simply become part and parcel of the game this season for Leeds Rhinos. Peter Smith reports.
Injuries have become just another part of the game for Leeds Rhinos.
The Super League champions will be without second-rower Mitch Achurch for tonight’s visit of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats after he suffered knee damage in the defeat at Warrington Wolves a fortnight ago.
He takes the number of players definitely unavailable this evening to six – with an injury doubt hanging over Kylie Leuluai, Brett Delaney and Brad Singleton, who are all included in tonight’s initial squad.
One of the players who has recently returned from a lay-off is centre/back-rower Carl Ablett and he said Leeds are learning how to cope without so many key men.
“We’ve probably learned to play with it now,” Ablett stated.
“It just seems like we are picking a few more up every game, but there’s nothing we can do about it.
“We’ve just got to get on with it and whoever comes in will do a good job.
“We’ll go with whatever team gets selected and if we put in the effort we have in the last two games, hopefully that’ll be enough.”
Rhinos produced a devastating attacking display for 50 minutes of their win at Widnes Vikings and pushed Warrington all the way last time out, only to go down to a last-minute drop goal after scoring four tries to three.
Both performances have given them an injection of confidence, Ablett said.
Leeds were reduced to just 15 fit players against Warrington when Singleton and Achurch were hurt in the first half and he said: “Losing the two fellas we did had an effect on us late in the game and we didn’t quite have the experience to see the game out.
“That was a little bit disappointing, but we got a lot from it. I am sure we all learned a lot from that game.
“Over the last two games we’ve been attacking well and things look well. We just need to work on a few things, but we’ve had a good break and we’ve come back in and worked really hard.”
Ablett said he has never known an injury crisis like the one which has hit Rhinos over the past couple of months.
This year Zak Hardaker, Ben Jones-Bishop, Kallum Watkins, Danny McGuire, Leuluai, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Kevin Sinfield, Stevie Ward, Delaney, Ryan Bailey, Achurch and Joe Vickery have all suffered a long-term injury at some stage.
“It’s the length of them as well,” Ablett pointed out. “It’s not as if they are one or two weeks, they are all long term.
“They all seem to be eight, 10 or 12 weeks, but I suppose that’s what you have a squad for and it’s a good opportunity for the youngsters. We just have to deal with it.”
Youngsters including Liam Sutcliffe, Alex Foster and Thomas Minns are all included in tonight’s initial 19 and Ablett feels their emergence will prove to be a lasting legacy of the injury crisis.
“We’ve had a good mix,” he said. “They’ve come in and not had to do too much – Rob (Burrow) and JP (Jamie Peacock) and a few of the experienced players have made their mark on the team.
“We’ve got a good blend of some real experience and some good youth, so it has kind of worked. It looks like we will have to continue that for a few more weeks until we get a few of the boys back.”
Wildcats – who also have a couple of influential players missing – have won their last four games and are now just a point outside the play-off zone. The sides meet again at Rapid Solicitors Stadium next Friday and Ablett said: “They always seem to raise their game against us and I suppose it will be weird playing them back-to-back. They’re in good form and they’ve got a pretty decent squad and quite a deep squad, with some good players who are playing well. They’ve got some momentum, which is a big thing. They are coming into games on the back of wins and they are in the habit of winning, which is a great habit to be in. Coming to Headingley I am sure they will be up for it.
“They have a few ex-Leeds players and we know what they can do. They like playing against Leeds, so I’m sure it will be a tough one.”
Ablett added: “We took a lot from the Warrington game and we’ve worked on a few things we need to improve.
“It’s just about building each week for us now. We can start to smell the end of the season and the play-off games now.
“You have to start making a run for it now and building a bit of momentum. We refreshed last week, not having a game, which was good for us.
“We rested a few bodies up and we’re looking for a big end to the season now.”
Ablett has been playing in the second-row since his return from a thumb injury and he said: “I’m enjoying it back in the middle. I’ve come back straight into 80 minutes and the work rate has had to be up there, but we’ve got a youthful pack at the minute and that’s enjoyable. I’m sure I’ll get better, I’ve had a few games now and I’m looking to have a good end to the year.”
Leeds Rhinos from: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sutcliffe, Burrow, Moore, McShane, Peacock, Ablett, Clarkson, Singleton, Kirke, Keinhorst, Foster, Leuluai, Delaney, Minns.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats from: Mathers, Fox, Lyne, L Smith, Cockayne, Wildie, T Smith, Poore, Aiton, Amor, Mariano, Kirmond, Washbrook, Lauitiiti, Wilkes, Raleigh, Annakin, Goulding, Trout.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).