Leeds Rhinos expect Kyle Eastmond and Luke Gale to be fit for Super League round one - despite missing pre-season game at Huddersfield Giants
Recent recruit Kyle Eastmond and captain Luke Gale are on course for Betfred Super League round one, despite missing Leeds Rhinos' pre-season game at Huddersfield Giants on Sunday.
Eastmond joined Rhinos last week following 10 years in rugby union and Gale is in light training after tearing a pectoral muscle on the first day of pre-season.
With Rob Lui (quad muscle) and Callum McLelland (groin) both on the casualty list, all four of Rhinos’ half-backs are unavailable for the team’s only warm-up game, but overseas signings Zane Tetevano and King Vuniyayawa will both feature.
“We won’t play Kyle or Luke,” coach Richard Agar confirmed.
“They are both coming along nicely, but we want to get those guys ready for round one and we’ve still got some important training time on the field for them.
“They are just not quite ready to play yet.”
Rhinos begin their competitive season against Wakefield Trinity at Emerald Headingley two weeks today (Saturday) and Agar is confident both Gale and Eastmond will be available.
He said: “With Luke, it was a 12-week injury and the game is just past 11 weeks.
“The question was how much training we could get into him.
“He has been able to keep running, but in terms of getting full range of movement, being able to pass the ball and tackle and get into contact, we knew we wouldn’t get much time to assess that or work around it.
“But he has done really well, he joined in most of the stuff we did in training last week and we have still got two weeks left.
“We will be safety-first, but we are fairly hopeful and the same with Kyle.
“He has not played for a long time and we have to be careful not to overload him with physical stuff and information, but he is in decent nick and the early signs from Kyle have been really good.
“He is an elite rugby player and we’re really confident we will get him to a level pretty quickly, then - beyond that - we are excited about what he’ll bring to us.”
Agar is keen to see Tetevano and Vuniyayawa pull on a Leeds jersey for the first time.
“They’ve been good,” he said of their performance in training.
“Zane clearly is everything we hoped and expected.
“He has definitely ramped up the intensity for the guys in the middle of the field and is lifting the standards in training.
“He has got terrific leadership skills and has been very diligent in his preparation.
“He has got to know our plays and has fitted in with our style of rugby really easily.”
Agar added: “He has got some terrific skill about him too.
“We like to have some men in the middle of the field who can pass a ball.
“Some of our best periods of play last year came when we had a couple of guys who could offload in the middle.
“To get someone not only of his power, but has silky skills as well, we think that will certainly add to our attack.”
Of Vuniyayawa, Agar said: “It is early days, but he has settled in nicely and it will be good to see him play.
“When you get him out in the middle you know he is going to run as hard as he can and if anybody runs in his line he’s going to hit them as hard as he can as well.”
Rhinos’ 2020 player of the year Matt Prior arrived back in Leeds last week and won’t play this weekend.
Alex Mellor is suspended, Jack Walker, Harry Newman and Lui are on the long-term injury list and Tom Holroyd and Alex Sutcliffe - who both had surgery in the off-season - miss out, along with Konrad Hurrell and McLelland.
The game will be streamed live on the RFL's Our League platforms - https://www.rugby-league.com/livestream - priced £4.95 if booked in advance, rising to £10 on the day.
Leeds Rhinos: from T Briscoe, Handley, Oledzki, Leeming, Martin, Tetevano, Dwyer, L Sutcliffe, Myler, Smith, Vuniyayawa, Thompson, Walters, L Briscoe, Donaldson, O’Connor, Broadbent, Hall, Tindall, Edwards, Gannon.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield). Kick-off: Sunday, 2pm.