Leeds Rhinos: Injury-hit Salford will just have to do it tough – McGuire

Salford Red Devils owner Dr Marwan Koukash. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Salford Red Devils owner Dr Marwan Koukash. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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SALFORD ARE in a tough situation at the moment and I have some sympathy for them.

I doubt they ever thought it would happen, but they were within their rights to ask for today’s game at Hull to be postponed because of all the players they’ve got missing.

I think it was a bit of a cheeky request and it’s given everyone else in the game a cheap laugh, but I can imagine what Hull’s reaction was. There’s no way they were ever going to say yes.

Hull are struggling a bit themselves at the moment and they need to get some wins on the board. They’ll see it as a great chance to pick up some points so they’ll be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of playing a below-strength Salford team.

I read that Wakefield asked the RFL earlier in the year what would happen if they couldn’t raise a team because they had so many players on the sick list.

If a game was postponed because of one club’s injuries it would set a precedent and probably cause more problems than it could solve. How many injuries would you have to collect before you could call a game off?

Everyone is picking up injuries at this time of the year, not long after Easter and 12 or 13 games into the season. Everyone’s carrying niggles or not feeling great and, to be honest, it is probably the toughest time of season.

Salford have a few suspensions as well, which doesn’t help. They are things that happen on the field and you can’t feel too sorry for that, but injuries do have an impact and I have some sympathy for their fitness crisis.

We’ve been through it over the last few years, though maybe not quite on the same scale and you just have to cop it on the chin and get on with things.

Sometimes you get a siege mentality and it brings everyone closer together. It also gives an opportunity for young players to come in and show what they can do and proves the value of a strong academy.

Ash Handley has been going really well for us this year and he got his chance when Tom Briscoe was hurt, so positives do come out of it.

Salford definitely hit the publicity jackpot when Dr Marwan Koukash took them over. He never seems to be out of the headlines. Not everybody likes him, but I actually think he is good for the game.

He enjoys rocking the boat, but he gets a lot of people talking and we need people like that in a sport that doesn’t attract much media attention. I think some of his ideas are pretty good. He’s backing the marquee player proposal – so clubs can make a big-name signing which doesn’t count on the salary cap – and I think that’s something that should be looked at seriously.

He is making a serious effort to make Salford successful and for the good of the game we do need more clubs challenging the big-four or -five.

Whether they can ever compete consistently against the current top clubs, I don’t know. It is tough for Salford, because of their stadium and they’ve not had much success for a lot of years, so they have a job on to get lapsed fans back.

Their attendances aren’t great and they need to get more people through the turnstiles. Manchester’s a big area and it would be good for them and rugby league if they could find a way of tapping into that market.

That’s easier said than done in a football-mad area.

I actually like their new stadium. I know it’s not the most fan-friendly place because of the problems getting in and out and it’s a bit in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a good pitch and the facilities for players are spot on.

It’s a long way from their old ground, but I really liked the Willows as well.

It was a dump, but it was a good place to play.

The changing rooms were a challenge – I’ve seen bigger phone boxes – but you always knew you were in a game.

It was intimidating coming down the tunnel on to the pitch, with their fans yelling and screaming at you and the first time I played there it shocked me a bit.

It was a proper, old-school rugby stadium and I do miss it.

It wasn’t fit for the 21st century and realistically they had to move, but I hope they can find a way of making the new ground work for them.

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NEW ZEALAND play Australia in the Anzac Test this weekend, State of Origin is coming up – and what do England have? A one-off Test against France a week before the first game versus the Kiwis this autumn.

The England side’s preparation is going to make it difficult for them to beat New Zealand this year or win any big series in the future.

When I was involved a few years ago, Steve McNamara and his coaching staff seemed to be making real strides forward.

England weren’t playing many games, but what they were doing was creating a club culture for the international side and that was a positive move. That seems to have fallen by the wayside. I’ve not heard of any team meetings or get-togethers and England don’t have mid-season matches any more. The 2013 World Cup was a fantastic success, but the game against France in October will be the first time England have played on home soil since.

That seems like a missed opportunity. The Aussies and Kiwis have a mid-season Test every year, plus State of Origin.

It’s not necessarily the coaching staff’s fault. We play so many matches there’s no room in the calendar for an England game or for the players to get together and that puts us at a big disadvantage.

Playing France the week before the Test series begins is something, but it’s not ideal. There were some promising signs from some young players in last year’s Four Nations, but that hasn’t been followed up.

Whenever we start to build momentum, it just seems to be allowed to fade away. If we seriously want England to close the gap on Australia and New Zealand, we have to make sure the team gets the best possible build up. The Kiwis are probably the best team in the world at the moment and this year’s Test series is going to be incredibly tough. The lack of preparation is going to make it even harder.

Warrington Wolves head coach Tony Smith.

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