Agar’s Agenda - what’s on the Leeds Rhinos’ boss’s plate this week
LEEDS RHINOS are beginning the most crucial six days of their season.
Rhinos will fight to protect their Betfred Super League top-four spot when they face Catalans Dragons at Emerald Headingley on Wednesday and a place at Wembley will be at stake three days later in a Coral Challenge Cup semi-final against Wigan Warriors in St Helens. So what issues face coach Richard Agar this week?
1: Agar’s first concern will be that Harry Newman makes a swift and full recovery from the double leg fracture he suffered against Hull KR last Thursday. It is a nasty injury and a blow to both player and club. Newman has been a shining light this season, but Rhinos have options. Liam Sutcliffe will keep one centre berth and if Konrad Hurrell is cleared to return from isolation he could slot straight into the other. Alternatively, Ash Handley could play there with Luke Briscoe as his winger. Alex Sutcliffe is another option, though his long-term future probably lies in the pack.
2: Liam Sutcliffe, who has been in good form in the left-centre, remains on the transfer list, but Leeds will be even keener to keep him following Newman’s injury. He is under contract to the end of next season so there’s no rush, but Agar and Kevin Sinfield will have persuading him to stay near the top of their to-do list.
3: Agar will name an initial 21-man squad for Wednesday’s game today and there will be some debutants. Agar has been planning for the midweek fixture for a while and was set to give a host of fringe players a run in Catalans earlier this month before the game was postponed due to coronavirus. It’ll be good to see how the ‘next gen’ do against top opposition.
4: Resting players before a semi-final doesn’t always work. It backfired for Leeds in 2017, but is the right decision this time. One concern is, with only a three-day turnaround, a head knock could rule a player out of semi-final contention.
5: Wigan are favourites after their 28-10 win a month ago, but in 2012 Rhinos lost 50-8 at home to them in Super League and beat them in a Cup semi-final the following month. Leeds are in good form and have a genuine chance.