RECRUIT Weller Hauraki is confident Leeds Rhinos are heading in the right direction, despite recent poor results.
Rhinos go into tonight’s visit of Salford City Reds on a run of successive defeats and with a mounting injury list.
Losses to Harlequins and Warrington Wolves have been marked by a series of handling errors and some weak defence near their own line, but Hauraki believes those problems are nothing more than teething troubles as Leeds adjust to new coach Brian McDermott’s way of doing things.
“We have still got a bit of work to do, but I think we will come right,” Hauraki insisted.
“Macca has brought a lot of new stuff to the team and I think we are all trying to get the hang of how he wants us to play.
“I think in a couple of weeks we’ll come right. He has given us the right to pass and he wants us to play, but we have got to do the basics before we can earn the right to pass.
“It all comes down to holding the ball and completing our sets. Once we do that, we can play all we want.
“When we are holding on to the ball, that is going to help our defence. We will have more energy.”
There will be desperation on both sides this evening. City Reds have won just once this year – a 32-6 victory at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats a fortnight ago – and have suffered three heavy losses, against Crusaders, St Helens and Wigan Warriors.
“They have got a really good team,” Hauraki warned. “I have seen the highlights of when they played Wigan on the weekend and they looked really good.
“All the boys know we are in for a tough game on Friday night and I think we will be ready for it.
“The boys are really hungry for a win. We lost our first one at home, so it’s important to get the first one on our own ground.”
Hauraki joined Rhinos in the off-season from Crusaders and scored on his debut, as a substitute, in the win at Hull three weeks ago.
“Apart from the results, it has been pretty good,” the New Zealand Maori second-rower said of his introduction to the Leeds side.
“I am slowly getting up to speed, but I think I’ve still got a bit more work to do on how I play. That comes with more games, but I’ll be all right.”
Rhinos will line-up tonight without any of their senior specialist props – and back Lee Smith has become their latest injury victim.
Luke Burgess (knee cartilage) this week joined long-term front-row casualties Jamie Peacock (knee), Ryan Bailey (groin) and Kylie Leuluai (pectoral muscle) on the injury list and Ben Cross will serve a one-match ban following an incident in last week’s game.
Coach McDermott said Lee Smith – who has been named in the initial 19 – will not play due to a hamstring problem.
“Luke and Lee may be back next week, but it’s more likely to be the week after,” McDermott revealed, adding: “This is a great chance for our club to show off our squad.”
Brett Delaney (ankle) and Danny McGuire (knee) are also on the casualty roster.
McDermott confirmed prop Brad Singleton will make his senior debut off the bench. Fellow 18-year-old Cumbrian forward Jared Stewart is also included in the initial 19, but is likely to be the non-playing reserve.
Singleton, from Barrow, is a former England under-16s international and was selected for last year’s Academy Ashes series, but had to withdraw due to injury.
Second-row/loose-forward Stewart, from Whitehaven, was a member of last year’s triumphant England academy squad.
Jay Pitts and Paul McShane are set to feature after impressive performances for the under-20s in their win at Warrington six days ago.
Back-rower Pitts scored a hat-trick of tries and hooker McShane – who has yet to feature in the first team this year – was man of the match.
Prop Adam Sidlow drops out from the Reds team beaten by Wigan last week. Scrum-half Daniel Holdsworth, prop Ryan Boyle and loose-forward Jack Spencer are the players included in the 19 who did not play against Wigan.