James Bentley: Injury update on Leeds Rhinos' new signing from St Helens coach Kristian Woolf
St Helens coach Kristian Woolf has provided an update on injured forward James Bentley who will join Leeds Rhinos in pre-season on a two-year contract.
The 23-year-old Leeds-born second-rower suffered a back injury during Saints’ Magic Weekend defeat by Catalans Dragons at the start of last month.
That kept him out of the following week’s win over Rhinos and he will also miss tonight’s Betfred Super League semi-final rematch and the Grand Final, if Saints get there.
Woolf revealed: “He will definitely be out, in terms of contact, for a 12-week period and at the end of that there’ll be more scans to make sure all the healing is done before he’s in a position to do contact and obviously play again.”
Woolf added: “He is gutted and we are for him. Go back to 2020, he was one of our best - if not our best - all year, along with Morgan Knowles.
“He was a really big part of why we had success, but unfortunately for him he hasn’t quite been able to stay on the field this year.
“He played the first five games and had that broken leg and was out for an extended period.
“He came back for four games and is out again, but that’s our game.
“We have certainly missed him when he hasn’t been on the field and we are going to miss him next year.”
Bentley and half-back Theo Fages (fractured shoulder) are the only Saints players unavailable tonight.
Saints ran in seven tries - five of them in the opening half an hour - to inflict Rhinos’ heaviest defeat of the season just three weeks ago, but Woolf insisted that 40-6 rout won’t fool them into thinking tonight is going to be a formality.
Leeds have bounced back with two crucial wins, against Hull KR to secure fifth place on the table and at Wigan Warriors in an elimination play-off and have a stronger squad available this evening.
“It’s a few weeks ago now and it’s not going to make much difference for the game coming up, that’s for sure,” Woolf said.
“They are going to be very determined, obviously. Outside of a Challenge Cup final, it is the biggest game of the year and both teams are going to be really determined.
“It comes down to what each team comes up with on the night, but we are certainly confident.
“I think we’ve played our best footy over the last five or six weeks of the season and certainly brought the momentum and confidence and form into where we sit at the moment.
“It’s about putting all that together [tonight].”
Woolf was impressed by Leeds’ defensive effort in last week’s win at DW Stadium.
“They have been doing that for long periods this year,” he noted.
“Their performance last week wasn’t a surprise to us.
“They have got a lot of class in the side, they’ve shown their grit all year and been a tough team to play all year.
“They are very deserving to be in the final four and played really well against Wigan.
“We are going to have to be at our best, we are under no illusions there, but we are very confident about what our best looks like.”
Woolf rested many of his key players when Saints lost at Salford two weeks ago and they had a bye through the opening round of play-offs.
He pointed out: “It’s a very similar preparation to last year when our main guys had two weekends off and came into a semi-final against Catalans.
“That was probably our best performance last year, so I think we are sitting in a really good spot.”
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