Key players return to boost Leeds Rhinos in Super League clash with Hull KR
At least five players are available to return from injury when Leeds Rhinos travel to Hull KR on Friday.
Coach Richard Agar will name an initial 21-man squad today, but confirmed the influx of experience in his weekly press conference.
Rhinos have been without 12 of their first team squad for the past two games, losses to St Helens in the Betfred Challenge Cup and a Super League reverse against Wigan Warriors, but the crisis is beginning to ease.
Agar said winger Ash Handley (knee), centre Konrad Hurrell (calf muscle), full-back/half-back Richie Myler (hamstring), prop King Vuniyayawa (concussion) and second-row Bodene Thompson (ribs) are all expected to be in contention and Liam Sutcliffe, who has played at half-back this year, has “a chance” of being included.
But Agar warned getting first-choice names on the teamsheet “doesn’t necessarily mean you are back playing your best football, it doesn’t work like that”.
He said: “What’s important for us is, if we do get some guys back in this week, we replicate the same amount of spirit and desire and hope some of the guys coming in can give us a little bit more in some of the areas we haven’t quite had enough in over the last couple of weeks.”
The coach admitted: “We have had two really big efforts playing the two teams that contested last season’s Grand Final and will probably be there or thereabouts come the end of the year.
“Physically, on five-day turnarounds, it has probably been even more of an effort for us so getting some fresh troops back is welcome and will give our side a bit more balance after we have been playing people out of position.
“It has been obvious from our last two or three performances we have gone close and clearly we have been missing some strike and some cutting edge.”
Hurrell has yet to play this year and Handley was injured in a pre-season game last month; Myler has missed three matches, Sutcliffe and Thompson two and Vuniyayawa was ruled out of the Wigan clash.
“I am guarded because some of the guys coming back haven’t played for a while,” Agar conceded. “But we need to get them playing and back in our team.
“Over the last couple of years our numbers have been high for tackle busts, line breaks and that sort of thing and I think we have struggled to get over the line in the last three games.
“I am hoping we have got some players who will add to our game in those departments. We will be able to share a bit of the workload out, but it is important the guys coming back in get the same spirit and commitment levels the guys who’ve played the last two or three weeks had. If we get that, we will get going.”
At one stage, Rhinos were down to their sixth and seventh-choice half-backs and the first four names in contention to play full-back were also unavailable.
The injury list has been unprecedented at this stage of the season, but Agar insisted it has not been caused by the way Rhinos have trained.
“It is a situation that can cause alarm and concern, we understand that,” he said.
“You get the obvious question, what are you doing at training? We are not doing anything different on the training field to what we did last year or the year before.
“We look in depth to see how and why; some of our injuries have been impact injuries during the course of the first three rounds and our trial game. Some of them, unfortunately, are unavoidable and it does compound the pre-existing ones.”
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