'I'm ready': Leeds Rhinos' Morgan Gannon set for bigger role in Challenge Cup v Wigan Warriors
and live on Freeview channel 276
James Bentley is unavailable after failing a head injury assessment in the first half of the 40-18 Super League win at DW Stadium and Zane Tetevano will begin a two-game ban following his sending-off.
Another second-rower, ex-Wigan man James McDonnell, missed last Friday’s fixture because of an arm injury and is a doubt for the Cup tie, so Gannon could find himself in the starting lineup for the first time since February 24.
A concussion in that game led to two months on the sidelines, but he has been among the substitutes for Leeds past couple of matches and insisted he’s poised to start “if that’s what I am needed to do”.
He said: “I am not sure how Rohan [Smith, Rhinos’ coach] will work it, but I have got some good game time in the last couple of games so I am feeling good and ready if needed.”
Gannon was called into the initial England squad during his time out of Leeds’ senior side and was outstanding against Wigan, having featured briefly in the previous week’s loss to Salford Red Devils.
He replaced Bentley a quarter of the way into last week’s game and admitted he got more time on the field than planned, but insisted he came through unscathed.
“I wasn’t expecting to go on in the first half,” he confirmed. “I got about 50 minutes-ish and I was just expecting a bit in the second half.,
“It was good to get a bit more game time and build on what I did the week before. I am just taking my opportunities now and working my way back into the team. As much game time as I can get, I’ll take and make the most of it.”
The recent concussion followed one against Catalans Dragons at the end of last season which kept him out of Rhinos’ semi-final win at Wigan and the Grand Final defeat by St Helens.
Rhinos’ staff worked with the 19-year-old on tackle technique during his spell out of the team, but he also spent some long hours in the gym and feels that has paid dividends.
“I am four kilos heavier than when I got knocked out against Hull FC,” he revealed. “I am at 97.5 now and I am feeling good as well, I feel stronger.
“I think the work I did in those 10 weeks is paying off and the last two weeks I have felt pretty good.”
As a team, Rhinos will go into this weekend’s clash in buoyant mood following the remarkable fightback against the same opposition eight days earlier.
They were 14-0 down at one stage in the opening period and eight points adrift when Tetevano was dismissed, but ran in six tries in a dominant second half display.
Gannon stated: “We’ll take confidence out of that. We had 12 men for more than half of it, so if we can have 13 and a good gameplan to counteract them, we’ll be in a good position.”
Rhinos have had impressive wins previously this season, but playing well week-in and week-out has proved elusive.
St Helens are the visitors next week in Betfred Super League and Gannon stressed: “We’ve got to put a few performances together.
“That will be the big focus, how we back it up. We don’t want to be up and down, we want to stay at the top. We have shown what we are capable of.
“We’ve not reached where we want to be yet this year, but [after last week] we are heading in the right direction and we’ve got more to come, definitely.”
Gannon felt “working for each other” was the key to Rhinos’ win last week and something they have to repeat on Saturday.
“I really enjoy being out there when it’s like that,” he said. “We just started playing through them - in the first half we were trying to go a bit sideways and a few errors crept in.
“In the second we were pushing with each other and creating chances and that worked out for us.”