Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar says only Liam Sutcliffe will be unavailable to train on day one of pre-season

Leeds Rhinos will be in a far stronger position when pre-season training begins later this month than at the equivalent stage ahead of the 2021 campaign, coach Richard Agar says.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 4:45 am

In contrast to the situation ahead of what proved to be an injury-ravaged season, Agar expects to have an almost fully-fit squad on day one of training.

The coach revealed he is aiming to make more use of “world-class” facilities at Leeds Beckett University and changes are being planned for Rhinos’ Kirkstall training base.

“We are trying to improve,” Agar stressed.

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Richard Hunwicks, seen with Rob Burrow during his previous stint at Leeds, is returning to the club. Picture by Steve Riding.

He said: “Our season this year clearly was affected by injuries.

“We had a lot going into pre-season, from a combination of post-season operations, some guys broke down in rehab’, some guys broke down in pre-season or trial games or early in the season.

“As it stands now, only Liam Sutcliffe won’t be ready to train at the start of pre-season and he won’t be too far off, hopefully.

“It is a completely different situation [to last pre-season] because we will have 30-plus players ready to train from the word go.

Rhinos coach Richard Agar. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“Last year our numbers were floating between 12 and 14 all pre-season.”

Read more - Super League: Why Leeds Rhinos coach is looking forward to 2022 after “torrid” yearFormer Leeds conditioner Richard Hunwicks has returned to Rhinos, from Catalans Dragons, as performance director and the club are advertising for a new head physiotherapist.

“There’s some stuff where you think ‘we need to look at that’, but also plenty of injuries came through collisions which happen when you’re playing rugby league,” Agar said of this year’s huge casualty list.

“Sometimes you have to ride your look with that and we didn’t have much of it this year.

Liam Sutcliffe scores for Rhinos against Catalans. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“We copped some suspensions and that rests on us to be a bit better and we had two, two-week Covid shutdowns, which also led to some fixture congestion.

“Let’s hope we don’t get too much of that next year.

“There’s no doubt fixture congestion impacted some performances.

“Bearing in mind we were running with a small squad, we were flogging some players to death and we had some particularly flat performances at the end of some of those periods.”

The 2021 pre-season began in lockdown and coronavirus guidelines were in place all year.

“We always look to do things differently, but one thing we won’t be as restricted by is Covid rules - they have eased a little bit,” Agar noted.

“One thing we will be doing more is using our partnership with Leeds Beckett University.

“They have got some world-class, state of the art facilities that I feel we have probably under-used a bit.

“There’s Covid reasons partly behind that, but we have already had some chats with them about strengthening our partnership.

“We want to make more of that, from a testing, sports science, staff and facilities point of view.”

Agar added: “We are looking to make some minor changes to Kirkstall, to make it a bit more accommodating and get more use out of it in certain areas, particularly around nutrition.

“We want to make it a little bit more comfortable in areas for players.”

Agar has yet to decide whether to take the squad abroad for warm weather training.

“We will maybe try to get on a camp, but that’s not set in stone at the moment,” he said.

Betfred Super League fixtures are due to be announced in three weeks’ time.

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