'It has helped us a bit' - Leeds Rhinos raring to go against Salford Red Devils after two-week break

A two-week gap between games has boosted Leeds Rhinos, according to coach Richard Agar.

Thursday, 27th August 2020, 5:30 pm

Rhinos return to Betfred Super League action against Salford Red Devils at Warrington tomorrow and will be looking to bounce back from successive defeats by St Helens and Wigan Warriors.

Richie Myler has replaced broken-jaw victim Cameron Smith in the only change to the 21-man squad named for the game against Wigan, and Agar insisted: “The time off has helped us a little bit.”

He said: “The nature of our performances have been disappointing the last couple of times out. We acknowledge that and understand the areas we have got to be better in.

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Rhinos players study video of a training session during a team meeting at Emerald Headingley. Picture by SWpix.com.

“We think the new [style of] game and our own not taking care of the ball has had a bit of an impact on us.

“We have made some adjustments to the way we’ve trained over the last couple of weeks, trying to have a little bit more replication of what’s happening to us in a game.”

Rhinos had won five successive matches before being crushed 48-0 by Saints and losing 28-10 to Wigan.

“No-one likes losing, but it is all part of the journey we are on; getting better and improving on your setbacks and realising where we are at as a team,” Agar added.

Adam Cuthbertson, Richie Myler and Rob Lui celebrate as Mikolaj Oledzki scores against Salford in February. Picture by Steve Riding.

“We know we have come from a tough position the last couple of years. We know we have got to get back up there as a team that consistently challenges for the top-four but, at the same time, we understand where we are at on our journey and the improvements we have got to make collectively and individually.

“We have got a particularly good bunch of players who acknowledge where we are at and the mistakes we’ve made and are determined to improve from where we’ve been.”

Salford have had an even longer lay-off, since their 54-18 thrashing of Hull on August 9. Their game against Catalans Dragons the following week was postponed after several Hull players returned positive tests for coronavirus and, like Leeds, they had a bye through the Coral Challenge Cup sixth round.

Rhinos won 22-8 at Salford in February, but Agar recalled: “I didn’t think they were too far away then and the way they played against Hull, they are clearly a team who all buy into their individual roles; they are very well-organised and very committed.

Rhinos coach Richard Agar. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“They possess some good plays and some good players as well. They are a very hard team to beat.”

Meanwhile Rhinos are keeping a close eye on the situation surrounding their next opponents Wakefield Trinity.

Rhinos’ game at Catalans Dragons on September 7 has been postponed after three Catalans players and a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19 following their Coral Challenge Cup win over Wakefield last week. Three members of Trinity’s squad have also had to isolate.

Rhinos are due to take on Trinity at Emerald Headingley next Thursday.

Agar’s team were previously unaffected by the virus since the sport returned from lockdown, though their game at Catalans in March was called off after the club decided not to travel, but he reckons more positive tests and postponed games will put added pressure on an already-packed fixture list.

“If we continue getting impacted it is certainly going to leave a logjam of fixtures,” he warned. “It is a concern.

“I think everybody is putting plenty of measures and safeguarding in place and being really respectful to the rules, but it is a really difficult one.

“It is obviously highly contagious and, I think even if you are being unbelievably careful, you have still got a chance, the fact you are out and about, of picking something up.

“It is going to test the competition for sure, if it continues. If we continue to get teams going down for two weeks, I am sure they are going to have to come up with some contingencies, but coming up with contingencies that are fair and realistic is very, very difficult.”

Agar stressed Rhinos’ players have been following all the guidelines, both at the club and when off duty.

He said: “The boys have had a bit of a meeting about what we are doing away from here and the sacrifice over the next two or three months, what that might involve and, I guess, the ramifications of what could happen if the season was to get suspended or cancelled - the impact that might have on us as a team and individuals too. Everybody is ultra-mindful.”

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Laura Collins