Agar's agenda: Here's what could be on Leeds Rhinos boss Richard Agar's mind this week ahead of huge Super League showdown with Hull KR
Leeds Rhinos are into knockout rugby, a week early.
Entering the final round of the regular season, Rhinos could need to beat visitors Hull KR - who are one place above them on the table - to qualify for the Betfred Super League play-offs.
Here’s what might be on coach Richard Agar’s agenda ahead of Rhinos’ biggest game of the season so far.
1: It’s still in Rhinos’ hands. Winning at St Helens last week would have been a bonus, but - as Agar has admitted - with three games remaining it was always likely Leeds would need to beat Hull and Hull KR to seal a place in the top-six. That hasn’t changed after the 40-6 drubbing at TW Stadium, but now Castleford Tigers’ must-win match against Warrington Wolves has been brought forward to Thursday, it’s possible the only issue on Friday will be whether Rhinos visit Warrington or Wigan Warriors in week one of the play-offs. Overall, it’s not a bad situation to be in.
2: Pivots. Corey Johnson’s return to the club and solid effort against Saints is a huge bonus for Rhinos. Next year the 20-year-old ex-England academy player will be competing with Kruise Leeming and Brad Dwyer for the acting-half role and Agar will also have to fit Aidan Sezer, Luke Gale and Blake Austin into his 17 somehow. With long-term casualty Jack Walker apparently looking very good as he continues his recovery from a foot injury and Richie Myler now established at full-back, there will be competition across the pivotal positions in 2022, which should warm Agar’s cockles during the off-season.
3: Morgan Gannon. Eyebrows were raised when Agar said the young second-rower was “rested” against Saints. It was, however, a decision which makes sense. Gannon has been excellent this year, but is 17 and has had lengthy game time in recent weeks. It wasn’t a make-or-break game, so why not see what Sam Walters can do as a starting forward and save Gannon for what might be a must-win fixture?
4: Ryan Hall. Even at 33, Hull KR’s ex-Leeds hero is still the best winger in Super League. Nobody wants to see a player injured, but Rhinos will be relieved they won’t have Hall to deal with on Friday, after he suffered shoulder damage against Tigers last Saturday.
5: No fear. If Leeds do qualify, they shouldn’t be daunted by a trip to Warrington or Wigan in the play-offs. Rhinos have won on both those grounds this season and, with potentially some more players returning, they could go to either with confidence.
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