Leeds Rhinos star’s injury scare leaves him facing waiting game over Super League clash against St Helens

LEEDS RHINOS’ Matt Prior is hopeful of being available for Thursday’s game at St Helens despite an injury scare in the mid-season international.

By Peter Smith
Monday, 20th June 2022, 6:45 am

Prior started at loose-forward for Combined Nations All Stars, but lasted only 15 minutes of their 18-4 defeat by England at HJ Stadium in Warrington.

The 35-year-old Australian suffered a sternum injury and did not return, raising fears he could be ruled out of this week’s visit to the Betfred Super League champions.

That would be a huge blow to Rhinos who are already without front-rowers Tom Holroyd and Muizz Mustapha through suspension, but Prior was relatively upbeat immediately after the match.

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England's Sam Tomkins lifts the trophy after the clash with a Combined All Stars team at the Halliwell Jones Stadium Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

“I’m all right,” Prior said. “I just had a bit of trouble with my sternum, everything stiffened up around it and I couldn’t breathe.

“I thought it was something worse than it probably was.

“It kind of settled down at half-time and it’s not feeling too bad now.”

Prior attempted to warm-up on the sideline late in the first half, but said: “It didn’t feel like it had got any better.

INJURY CONCERN: Matt Prior is hoping to have recovered from a sternum injury in time to face St Helens on Thursday. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“I thought I’d be no good, but they got into it at half-time, I had some anti-inflams and it didn’t feel too bad.

”I probably could have got back out there, but it wasn’t to be.”

The All Stars’ management were unwilling to risk worsening the injury, potentially causing Prior to miss games for his club.

“We have got a short turnaround, we play Thursday night, so I haven’t got many days to get it right,” Prior added.

IMPRESSIVE: Castleford Tigers' Paul McShane impressed during England's win over the Combined All Stars. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com

“But the way it’s feeling now, I think I should be all right so I am happy about that.

“I was still keen to get out there and help the boys out, but it wasn’t to be.”

Prior had started the game strongly and was happy with his performance before the injury.

“I wanted to start strong and I was feeling good,” he said.

“But after that happened, I felt like I couldn’t get a full breath of air in and I felt like I might let the team down a bit, so I thought it was best to get off and try and sort it out.

“It was frustrating.”

Despite the setback, Prior described his week with Combined Nations as “awesome”.

He said: “I love it, catching up with a lot of blokes I met last year and have seen around for years but never really met and meeting a lot of new guys as well.

“The week is really enjoyable.”

Prior played in the All Stars’ win over England last year and backed up two days later for Rhinos.

The international was given a stand-alone slot in the calendar this year and Prior noted: “We get a bit more rest this time, so that’s good.

“Obviously Saints are on top, as they always have been for the last few years while I’ve been here, so we are going to have to be on our game.

“It’s a good challenge.”

Rhinos are eighth in the table and on the back of a disappointing result and performance at Huddersfield Giants last time out.

But Prior believes the top six is still very much within reach.

He insisted: “If we string a few wins together we’ll see where we can go. We still have a chance so hopefully we can jag a couple of wins and get in there.”

The Saints game will be Rohan Smith’s fourth in charge and Prior is “enjoying” working with the new boss.

“I’ve liked it, it has been really good, really refreshing,” he said.

“I like what he has brought to the club and his energy. I think the way he likes to play is enjoyable for the players and everyone’s getting into it. There’s a lot of attacking footy, it’s fun. There is structure, but he also gives you a licence to play and he wants you to play, so it’s good.”