Leeds Rhinos skipper Luke Gale 'disappointed' at St Helens match setback - as coach Richard Agar comments on chances of facing Catalans Dragons in Super League next week
Captain Luke Gale admits not having a game tonight is “disappointing” for Leeds Rhinos as they attempt to build some momentum in their push towards a top-six finish.
Rhinos were due to take on Betfred Super League champions St Helens at Emerald Headingley, but the fixture was postponed after several Leeds players tested positive for coronavirus and others were ruled out as having been in close contact with their infected teammates.
Bot clubs are hoping to rearrange the game for later in the season, but Rhinos' clash with Catalans Dragons in Perpignan a week tomorrow is also in doubt.
Fixtures for rounds 14 to 25, which were published yesterday, give them little room for manoeuver, with several short turnarounds already pencilled in.
Tonight’s postponement means Rhinos will have at least a 22-day gap between fixtures, following their record 60-6 win at Castleford Tigers on May 28.
And that could be even longer if next week’s game in France is also called off.
At the time the Saints game was postponed, on Wednesday, Rhinos had been reduced to only 14 fit players.
Rhinos’ performance at the Jungle was their best of the season and Gale stressed they were keen to play tonight and build on that.
“It’s disappointing,” he admitted.
“It is a tough one, but if there’s eight or nine players unavailable that makes a massive dent in the squad, especially when we’re not at full health anyway.
“We have got a fair few injuries, so with Covid as well it has left us very thin on the ground.”
Huddersfield Giants have had similar problems this week, with their game at home to Wigan Warriors tonight also being called off.
They are the first Super League matches to fall victim to the pandemic this year.
“We thought that was behind us,” Gale added.
“It just shows it is still there.
“We had a really good week last week, we used it to our advantage and it is definitely disappointing we can’t get out there.”
Meanwhile, coach Richard Agar said it is “too early to say” if next Saturday’s game in Perpignan will go ahead.
“We are going to be looking into [next week’s fixture] and seeing if that is viable,” Agar said.
“There’s a lot of unknowns at the moment and, as we’ve seen before, these situations evolve by the hour, really.
“It is very, very frustrating and disappointing.”
Agar added: “Kicking fixtures down the road causes us nothing but problems.
“Last year we bent over backwards to get every fixture fulfilled.
“The toll it took on our squad was unbelievable, towards the end of the season it was last man standing.
“We are desperate to avoid those types of situations, where we are playing four games in 14 days and five games in 20 days.
“It has too much of an effect on your squad.
“We want to get as many of our fixtures fulfilled in any way we can, as quickly as we can.
“We will do everything we can to get it on, but we don’t make the rules and it is a fast-evolving situation.”
Agar stressed it is not possible to fulfil fixtures simply by calling up a team of players from the academy squad.
The under-19s are only two games into their season, having had more than a year out and Agar warned there would be a risk of teenage players “getting hurt” if they were thrown straight into a Super League fixture, without match practice or experience at the top level.
This year’s table will be decided on win percentage, allowing for matches which are not played because of coronavirus.
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