JAMES Lowes reckons what he went through as Warrington Wolves coach can give Leeds Rhinos cause for optimism during their current injury woes.
The Rhinos assistant-boss was in charge of opponents Warrington for almost a year, from June, 2008.
That spell saw them reeling from a massive injury crisis and he reckons the problems they suffered then are having positive benefits now.
Leeds will travel to HJ Stadium without at least four first-choice players, with question marks over three more.
Prop Kylie Leuluai has become Rhinos’ latest casualty, facing up to six weeks on the sidelines due to a pectoral muscle injury.
He has joined Brett Delaney (ankle) and long-term knee injury victims Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock on the casualty list.
Brent Webb and Carl Ablett have both been named in coach Brian McDermott’s initial 19 after missing last weekend’s loss to Harlequins due to knee injuries.
Ryan Bailey, who has not played yet this year because of a groin problem, is also included, though all three face fitness tests.
Leeds have been hit hard at the start of the campaign, but Lowes believes injuries now could make the squad stronger in the long-term.
“Kylie Leuluai has started the season very well and it makes it a bit more difficult (without him), but it is an opportunity for other people,” said Lowes.
“You always miss quality, but whoever comes in will certainly be trying their hardest.
“When I first took over at Warrington we had a lot of injuries and some of the young lads played a decent amount of first team rugby.
“They benefited from that and it shows what can happen. Ideally, you would like to drip feed some of the young lads in, but when I was in charge there I didn’t get an opportunity to do that.
“The long-term benefits are that players who are still young have had a lot of first team experience and you feel more confident about putting guys who have got that experience into the side.”
Lowes joined Leeds from Warrington at the end of last year.
“I had a fantastic three years there,” he said. “Parts of that three years were very, very low, but there’s some fantastic people at the club and it means a lot going back there.
“I got booed when I was coach there and I’m sure I’ll come in for a bit of stick as an opposition coach, but I am looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, head coach McDermott confirmed Rhinos have considered recalling prop Luke Ambler from what was planned to be a season-long loan at Harlequins, but he added: “The likelihood is that won’t happen, because Ryan Bailey is not too far away.
“Ryan is going to go in for an operation next week, but we’re going to see if he can play in the meantime.”
Another prop, Kyle Amor, joined Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on loan at the start of last week and Rhinos are unable to recall him until he has completed a month at their Super League neighbours.
Of Webb and Ablett, McDermott said: “They are two people we didn’t expect back this weekend. They will have fitness tests, but at this stage it looks promising.”
Hooker Paul McShane has been included in Rhinos’ 19 and is vying for his first appearance of the year.