EXILED SAINT Andy Yates will be a fascinated spectator when Leeds Rhinos face his hometown club this weekend, but he is hoping his days on the sidelines are numbered.
Yates – who began his career in St Helens’ academy – joined Rhinos from Hunslet Hawks in the off-season, but suffered a serious Achilles injury in training and has yet to feature for his new side.
The 24-year-old front-rower will be cheering Rhinos from the stands during Saturday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup fifth round meeting with Saints at Headingley Carnegie, but revealed he has taken his first steps towards getting back on the field.
“I started running last week,” Yates revealed. “I’ve been running again this week and I’m up to about 80 per cent speed now.
“It feels good and there’s no problems with my Achilles. It just depends on how long it takes to strengthen my leg back up, but it’s looking like three or four weeks.
“That’s hopeful. I’ve not really been given a time frame, but it’s just a case of getting back fit.”
Yates is too old for Rhinos’ under-19s and could be dual-registered with Hunslet as he bids to regain match sharpness.
“I just want to see how I go in training,” he said. “But I feel fit and the main thing is there’s been no problems with my Achilles.
“My movement’s a lot better in it now, so hopefully I can come back and feel better than I did before the injury.
“When you are watching every week you just want to get out there and play. The lads are doing really well at the minute, everyone’s upbeat and it’s a good place to be.”
Rhinos’ impressive recent form will be tested to the limit on Saturday, when they take on the only team to have beaten them so far this year.
“It is a massive game,” Yates said of the clash with the club where he started his career. “There’s no bigger game than this.
“All the lads can’t wait for it, they are excited. The lads did well over Easter, so they are looking forward to getting into this game and getting a win.”
Saints went into Easter as First Utility Super League leaders, but slipped to third - behind Leeds and Castleford Tigers - after back-to-back defeats by Wigan Warriors and Widnes Vikings.
“They’ve lost a couple of games, but it’s a Cup game so it’s all or nothing and they will come out flying,” Yates predicted.
“It is a massive game for them and a massive game for us. Both of us want to do well in the Challenge Cup and go on and win it.
“Both sides have good squads and good teams. We are going into it on the back of some good performances and all the lads are confident.
“It’s not a bad way to go into the game, full of confidence and playing well, but it’s a knockout competition and anyone can win on the day.
“I think we have got a really good chance of winning, but Saints have added well to the side. The half-back Luke Walsh is a good player and they’ve got a good set of forwards and some young lads coming through.
“Obviously the backs are really good as well, so they are an all-round good team. But we are a quality side as well, so we’re not scared of them at all.”