Agar's agenda - here's what could be on the Leeds Rhinos boss' mind this week.
Leeds Rhinos are hoping to find out today whether they will be able to fulfil Saturday’s scheduled fixture at Catalans Dragons.
Last Friday’s home clash with St Helens was postponed after several Rhinos players tested positive for coronavirus and others were told to self-isolate.
That made it a tough week for the club and this one could be just as tricky. Here’s what might be on coach Richard Agar’s agenda for the next few days.
1: Uncertainty. Clearly Agar’s first priority is finding out whether his side have a game this weekend. Staff and players had PCR tests yesterday, which are sent to a lab for checking. So far, there have been six confirmed cases and seven players are isolating, leading to Rhinos’ Kirkstall training ground being closed. If the latest results come back clear, training will resume today.
2: Momentum, or lack of. After the 60-6 win at Castleford Tigers, Rhinos’ season seemed to be getting on track, with a big victory behind them and players returning from injury. But that was more than two weeks ago and if the visit to France is postponed, Leeds will go at least 27 days between games. There’s never a good time for a Covid outbreak, but this could not have been much worse.
3: Fixture pile-up. The schedule is already full and two more matches to squeeze in would only add to Rhinos’ problems. If Saturday’s fixture is called off the obvious - and really only - option is Challenge Cup final weekend, next month. Rhinos and Saints are looking for a date to rearrange last week’s game, but as things stand, there doesn’t seem to be one. That's why this year's table is being decided on win percentage - and at least that has not got any worse.
4: Silver lining. The long gap between fixtures has given some of Rhinos’ long-term casualties extra time to get fit and others an opportunity to recover from bumps and bruises.
5: On the other hand. Players with the virus have to complete their isolation and then go through a strict return to play procedure. Even when fit, the layoff and after-effects of the illness are likely to have an impact so it could be a while before Rhinos get back to normal.
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