London Broncos v Leeds Rhinos: Coach Richard Agar won’t put fit-again forwards Stevie Ward and Jamie Jones-Buchanan at risk
LEEDS RHINOS have close to a clean bill of health as they prepare for Sunday’s relegation four-pointer at London Broncos.
With three games remaining, Rhinos are eighth in Betfred Super League, two points clear of bottom club London and with a vastly superior for and against.
Victory in four days’ time would effectively make Rhinos safe but, despite the importance of the fixture, interim-coach Richard Agar has insisted he won’t take risks with anybody who is not fully fit.
Agar, whose first win as boss was against London at the Magic Weekend in May, confirmed Leeds came through the defeat by St Helens 13 days ago with no major new fitness worries.
And one of his big decisions this week is whether or not to include Stevie Ward in his matchday 17.
Ward has undergone two knee operations since being injured in a defeat at St Helens in February.
The back-rower warmed up before this month’s home win over Catalans Dragons and was in the initial 19 to face Saints, but not selected to play.
“He is a bit closer,” Agar said of Ward’s prospects of featuring on Sunday.
“Whether we play him or not, we will make a decision a bit later.
“We are not going to rush him back, unless he feels 100 per cent confident and fitness-wise and strength-wise and mentally he feels good to go.
“He has had a full week’s training and he will come into consideration.”
Broncos play on an artificial surface at Ealing Trailfinders, but Agar insisted that won’t be a factor.
“It is more about how he is feeling,” he said.
“Coming into last week he felt all right.
“He had a couple of heavy training sessions and he didn’t feel as good coming out of it.
“He felt a little bit off so we just felt we’d give him that couple of extra weeks.
“After such a long injury we didn’t want to rush him back.
“We have a big, fit squad at the moment so we will wait until he is right.”
Rhinos’ players were given some time off following the Saints game, but have been back in training since the second half of last week.
Agar said: “Everybody came through the last game all right; we’ve got no major dramas on that.”
Prop Brad Singleton is unavailable as he completes a two-game ban and long-term injury victims winger Tom Briscoe and forwards Carl Ablett and Dom Crosby remain on the casualty list.
Veteran forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who has not played since May and will retire from playing at the end of the season, is in training and could also come into contention for the trip to the capital.
The 38-year-old has recovered from a back/hamstring problem and Rhinos are planning a farewell celebration at their final game of the season, against Coral Challenge Cup holders Warrington Wolves at Emerald Headingley on September 13.