Leeds Rhinos v Wakefield Wildcats: Young stars have chance to shine

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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Boss Brian McDermott reckons Leeds Rhinos’ Boxing Day clash with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats could unearth a future star.

Rhinos’ starting line-up includes three players – Jimmy Watson, Jamel Chisholm and Stevie Ward – who have yet to make their Super League debut.

Another, Liam Hood, is on the bench and others could be added before the match – and McDermott expects his rookies to use the Heatshot Festive Challenge as the first step towards pushing for a senior call up in 2012.

“Some of these young fellas have shown up really well in training,” McDermott said.

“They will be able to ply their trade. There’s some promising young fellas coming through, Jimmy Watson being one of them.

“He was the under-20s player of the year last season and if he continues in the form he showed then it will be good to see how he goes.

“There’s always some blokes step up in these games and come up from outside the ranks.”

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Ward, who has been named at stand-off for Monday’s game, played in the second-row for England academy against the Australian Institute of Sport earlier this month.

Watson, the only member of Monday’s team from outside next season’s 30-man full-time squad, impressed last term after making his comeback from a knee reconstruction.

He has been named on the right wing, with Chisholm – a two-time fastest man in rugby league winner – starting on the other flank.

Hooker Hood is expected to press Paul McShane for a spot in Rhinos’ front-row next year.

A fifth youngster, off-season signing from Hull Luke Briscoe, has been withdrawn from the side due to injury.

McDermott said: “He has twisted a knee in training and he’s going to be out for six weeks.

“It’s a shame. He wasn’t going to make the starting line-up because he’s not got enough stripes on his arm yet, but he would have been a back-up for the halves during the game.”

The Leeds boss is also relishing seeing his two major signings in blue and amber for the first time.

“The new fellas, Darrell Griffin and Richard Moore, have done tremendously well in pre-season so far and we will get a good indication of where they are at,” he said.

McDermott admitted he will be relieved if his side come through their first warm-up game with no fitness worries, but he insisted the annual fixture serves a useful purpose.

“Getting through injury-free is important, but that’s never not a priority,” McDermott stated.” It will be a good test for us and we will see how far we’ve come in pre-season.

“We will get a bit out of this, I should think. Wakefield have had an overhaul of their squad and they will be fielding a very strong team.”

Monday’s game is Rhinos’ only clash with Super League opposition before they begin their title defence at home to Hull KR on February 3.

Rhinos’ players will be given some time off after Monday, before heading for a warm-weather training camp in Cyprus on January 4.

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