Bradford Bulls v Leeds Rhinos: Richard Agar convinced Rhinos are ready to deal with Challenge Cup test

HE MAY be a reluctant boss, but Richard Agar insists Leeds Rhinos are ready for today’s Coral Challenge Cup challenge at Bradford Bulls.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 11th May 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 11th May 2019, 7:00 am
Leeds Rhinos interim head coach Richard Agar.
 Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Leeds Rhinos interim head coach Richard Agar. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The BBC-televised sixth round derby is Agar’s first game as interim coach after Dave Furner’s departure was announced on Tuesday.

Director of rugby Kevin Sinfield has begun the search for a permanent replacement, but Agar is tasked with ensuring Rhinos end a turbulent week on a high.

Little more than a month ago Agar had no intention of returning to coaching, but he was drafted in as a temporary assistant to Furner when James Lowes left the club.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The 47-year-old – who joined Leeds in the off-season as head of player and coach development – insisted it would be unfair for Furner’s other assistant, Chev Walker, to be thrown in at the deep end.

“I met Kevin on Monday afternoon – with the players coming in on Tuesday – and very much the conversation was about getting ready to play this weekend,” Agar stated.

“Myself and Chev Walker are in there and I think it would have been very difficult on Chev being so early in his coaching career

“I’m in a far, far different place to where Chev is and to throw him into this situation could have been damaging and not good for him long-term.

GONE: David Furner at his last match in charge for Leeds Rhinos against Salford. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“I’m an experienced coach, I’ve lived through a couple of difficult situations before and we’ll get the team ready.

“I’ve spoken to Dave a couple of times on the phone and had some brief conversations with Kevin, but most of my time has been preparing this squad.”

Rhinos have won just five of their 15 competitive fixtures this year, one of those victories being against part-timers Workington Town in the previous Cup round.

Assessing where they have been going wrong, Agar said: “It could be a number of things: we can’t tackle as well as we need to, we don’t want to tackle, energy issues, technique - there could be a raft of issues.

“That’s the challenge we need to set down. I’ve only been with the team three weeks and even in that short time I’ve seen real glimpses and flashes - starting games well, scoring spectacular tries - but we’ve had some issues with our game-management.

“We’ve not got a strong kicking game and that can lump some pressure on your defence.

“We need to alleviate our defence from some of those pressure situations, but there’s some real simple things and one is trying to get more consistent in our tackle and wrestle areas.

“It’s as simple as that. I won’t look too deeply into that. It will come over the weeks.”

Ironically, Agar’s first game in charge pits him against John Kear who he succeeded as coach of both Hull and Wakefield Trinity.

Agar was Kear’s assistant when Hull shocked Leeds in the 2005 Challenge Cup final and the interim coach knows his old colleague will have Bulls fired up for the sides’ first meeting since 2014.

Bulls are sixth in the Betfred Championship and were on a seven-game winning run before last week’s defeat at leaders Toronto Wolfpack.

Agar noted: “I thought they were very dogged and held their gloves up to a strong Toronto team and made them work extremely hard for everything.

“They are going to be pumped up for this game. It’s on their home ground and there’ll be a great crowd, but I’m very much putting the focus back on us this week.

“It’s an opportunity for everybody to right some wrongs really. It’s a good opportunity to progress in a cup competition to a quarter-final, so there’s plenty to play for and plenty of reasons to get out there.

“We know they’ll come out fighting, we’ve got to handle that and I’m confident we will handle that.”