Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith on David Fusitu'a injury, Muizz Mustapha's future and background to James McDonnell signing
Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith has provided an update on injuries to David Fusitu’a, Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer, as well as Muizz Mustapha’s future at the club.
Winger Fusitu’a suffered ankle damage late in the 42-12 win over Wigan Warriors last week, but Smith said he, Austin and Sezer all have a chance of being available for Saturday’s game at Catalans Dragons.
Austin has missed three matches since suffering a dead leg while Sezer was ruled out of the past two.
Smith, who will name an initial squad on Thursday, said: “Fusitu’a got replaced at the back end of the game, but he has trained through most of [Wednesday’s] session, so that’s a positive.”
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The boss confirmed there were no other new injuries last week and Austin and Sezer are both “close” to being available.
“They’ve both participated in training [yesterday] so we’ll see how they respond to that and make a call on Friday,” he said.
Mustapha, 22, was Rhinos’ final try scorer against Wigan in his return from a five-game ban.
It was his third appearance of the season and sixth for Leeds since his debut three years ago.
He is out of contract at the end of the campaign and Smith revealed: “We haven’t made Muizz an offer.
“He is free to explore his options.”
Asked if Mustapha, who spent last year on loan at Super League rivals Hull KR, could yet earn a new deal, Smith added: “The roster is always a moving article.
“I am not going to speculate about people here until there’s something to offer you that’s a bit more concrete.”
The coach has also revealed the background to Rhinos’ signing of Wigan Warriors second-rower James O’Donnell, who is currently on loan at Leigh Centurions.
The England Knights man will join Rhinos in pre-season on a two-year deal and Smith said: “I was watching many games on video in the early weeks I was here.
“I was actually watching a couple of other players in a game and I saw James do a few things.
“He has got some good leg speed and enjoys the collision.
“A few of those things stood out so I did a bit more investigating, studied his game a bit more and met him in person.
“He’s a terrific young man, he has got some ambition and I think he has a long future at the Rhinos ahead of him.”
McDonnell is 22 - two years younger than Leeds’ other confirmed recruit for 2023, fellow forward Justin Sangare - and Smith said he is trying to create “the right mix” in his squad.
He pointed out: “We’ve got a lot of experienced players who are 30-plus, with a lot of games under their belt.
“We need some people in the middle and even at the lower end.
“Some of the young players in our squad are 17 and 18, which is extremely young to be expecting them to play every week in Super League.
“I feel like that age group, around 22-24 or even a little older, is somewhere there’s a little gap in our roster.”
Of future additions, Smith added: “Our policy’s to improve our roster as best we can, while adhering to salary cap restrictions.
“There’ll be a few more coming in at some stage.”