Talking points: How Leeds Rhinos handle the Dragons and the next four weeks is a hot topic

One to watch, highly-rated England academy international Carmeron Smith.
One to watch, highly-rated England academy international Carmeron Smith.
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Battered Leeds Rhinos are back in action on Friday when Catalans Dragons visit Headingley Carnegie.

It is Leeds’ first game since their record 66-10 humiliation at Castleford Tigers last week and a big response will be needed to end the French side’s unbeaten run.

Man of letters, Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington.

Man of letters, Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington.

Here are five talking points ahead of the game.

1: Gary Hetherington’s infamous letter to fans has turned up the heat, but this isn’t the worst time for Rhinos’ players and coaches to be facing a four-game ultimatum.

Three of those matches are at home – to Catalans, Wakefield Trinity and Wigan – and the other is at last year’s wooden-spoonists Huddersfield Giants.

Two victories and competitive performances in the other games might be enough, but in most seasons Leeds would expect to win at least three of the four, if not them all. That should not be beyond them and would transform the season if it happens.

The one that got away, Catalans' former Leeds hooker Paul Aiton.

The one that got away, Catalans' former Leeds hooker Paul Aiton.

2: Leeds will field a stronger team, with Rob Burrow and Carl Ablett set to return, but will that be enough?

Rhinos will need a big improvement in every aspect – organisation, kicking game, ball control, discipline and defence – to see off what looks to be a much-improved Catalans outfit.

3: Rhinos’ fringe men, those with a squad number outside the top-20, need to step up and prove they are ready – and good enough – for Super League rugby.

They are better than last week’s performance suggests and now is the time to prove it.

4: Catalans hooker Paul Aiton did not play against Leeds last year, but will want to have a big game at his old club.

Letting him go looked like a mistake at the time – towards the end of 2015 – and offering him a better deal would have saved an awful lot of bother since then.

5: Cameron Smith is set to return from a back injury when Rhinos under-19s face Catalans in Friday’s curtain-raiser.

The England academy international is one of the most highly-rated youngsters in the country and won’t be far off the first team if he can regain fitness and form quickly.

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