Agar's Agenda: What will be on Leeds Rhinos coach's mind ahead of crunch play-off tie at Wigan Warriors
It will be a whole new ball game when Leeds Rhinos begin their play-off campaign away to Wigan Warriors on Thursday.
Last week’s 36-12 win over Hull KR moved Rhinos up to fifth on the final Betfred Super League table, but they face the toughest-possible path to Old Trafford, playing all knockout rugby away from home. So what could be on coach Richard Agar’s agenda this week?
1: No fear. Wigan away is always a tough game, but Leeds have no reason to be daunted by Thursday’s challenge, having won 14-0 at DW Stadium less than a month ago. Wigan are a difficult team to break down, boasting Super League’s third-best defence, but only bottom club Leigh Centurions scored fewer points in the regular season. Agar will be expecting a tight clash which could go right to the final play.
2: Pack boost. Zane Tetevano is available after suspension and fellow forwards Mikolaj Oledzki, King Vuniyayawa and Alex Mellor could all return from injury this week, adding size and power to Rhinos’ pack. Unusually, Agar will have tough decisions to make over who to leave out for this game.
3: Rob Lui. Rhinos offered Lui an opportunity to leave the club following his pre-season quad muscle injury, but he was keen to see out his contract and has been in outstanding form since making his comeback in June, scoring five tries in nine games. The stand-off, who joined Leeds from Salford midway through 2019 and will retire at the end of this season, has been a good signing, helping them avoid relegation in his debut campaign and win the Challenge Cup last year.
4: Handy Handley. Injuries have disrupted Ash Handley’s season and six tries in 16 games is well below what he’d have hoped for at the start of the year, but the 25-year-old has played well when he’s had a chance. The positive way he responded to his error which gifted Hull KR their opening try - and his excellent finish late on - illustrated how he has matured into one of Super League’s top wingers.
5: On the up. Whatever happens on Thursday, or in the following three weeks, Rhinos can take positives from an injury-ravaged 2021 campaign. Team spirit now is clearly much better than when Agar took charge two years ago and young players will only benefit from the experience he has given them.
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