FORMER LEEDS Rhinos captain Iestyn Harris reckons Danny McGuire’s injury has been a key factor in their terrible start to 2016.
Rhinos will go into tomorrow’s round six visit of St Helens third from bottom in First Utility Super League, with just one win so far and the division’s poorest attack.
“I think probably the concerning thing for Leeds at the moment is the lack of combinations on the field with ball in hand,” said Harris, who worked as a radio pundit at last Friday’s defeat by Wigan.
“Leeds have always looked fluent with the ball, but they look disjointed at the moment. For all the talent of the youngsters in the halves, you do need that bit of experience in there. They desperately need Danny McGuire back as quickly as possible just to get that fluency back in and try and create some combinations.
“I would like to see a bit more of Zak Hardaker linking up with the halves and linking up with Brett Ferres, who we know has a lot of ability.
“They just don’t seem to have that fluency at the moment.”
Harris – who now works in player management after leaving his post as Salford coach last year – reckons confidence is more of an issue than injuries and the departure of key players Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai at the end of last season.
“Confidence is massive,” he said. “It is a big thing and when you go out on to a field confident you are going to play, generally it happens.
“They just look a little bit down on confidence. There were a couple of tries on Friday that Wigan scored and Leeds players were looking round at each other, looking to blame each other.
“That just shows a bit of a lack of confidence. That will come back when they start to get results.
“It is just important for Leeds they don’t leave it too late, because with the structure as it is now you can get cast adrift from that top-four.”
Leeds are third from bottom in the table, but Harris insisted: “I don’t think they will miss out on the eight.
“I think they will string some games together. It is just whether they get too far behind.
“They have Saints this week, then Cas next Thursday and then you are into Easter. They are six points behind the top-four now before they get players back and the top-four is where Leeds need to be.”
With Widnes Vikings and Warrington Wolves both going up a level this season, the battle for places in the semi-finals will be more intense than in 2015, Harris believes.
“It is a very competitive division,” Harris said. “The salary cap has been around a long time and eventually the lesser teams are going to start to catch the bigger teams.
“I think we are starting to see that now. Every game is competitive, barring maybe one or two teams.
“There’s no easy games. Leeds are fortunate, with respect to Wakefield, to get Wakefield on Easter Monday, because at home that should be a win for Leeds. But nothing is guaranteed in Super League now.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos trio Loui McConnell, Kiedan Hartley and Harry Newman have all been named in the England Youth squad to face their French counterparts in two Test matches on March 25 and 29.
Both games will be played at the Stade Daniel Ambert, the home of Elite One Championship side Pia Donkeys, with 7pm kick offs.
England go into their first game of 2016 having defeated Wales 52-12 last August at Taff Wells in Wales.
Also named in the squad were Callum McLelland (Castleford Tigers, Lock Lane, Castleford Academy), Joe Summers (Wakefield Wildcats, Shaw Cross Sharks, Siddall Moor Sports College) and Josh Pinder (Wakefield Wildcats, Shaw Cross Sharks, RC High School).