Leeds Rhinos to brush up on combinations ahead of Super League opener against Wakefield Trinity

With a week to go until the big kick off, Leeds Rhinos are focusing on building combinations and “brushing up” work done over the past two months.

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 6:00 am

Last Sunday’s warm-up game at Huddersfield Giants, which Rhinos lost 22-16, gave coach Richard Agar an indication of where they need to improve ahead of next Saturday’s Betfred Super League derby against Wakefield Trinity at Emerald Headingley.

None of the players expected to play in the halves for Rhinos this year featured against Giants and with three of them having been on the injury list for much of pre-season, Agar confirmed the next few days will be a case of “trying to get us ready and work on our combinations”.

He insisted: “We are better for the hit-out, it certainly gave us a couple of areas we need to brush up on, but at the same time we enjoyed the physical nature of the work out.

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Richard Agar, pictured earlier in pre-season, says more work needs to be done on Rhinos' combinations. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos

“We have got some academy boys coming in [today] so we will play a game of 13-on-13 at Headingley, the boys will get the weekend off and then we’ve got a long week into it next week.”

He stressed: “We’re all good, just trying to get a few last things brushed up on.

“Our half-backs haven’t done much of pre-season so getting them used to any little changes and finding their combinations is important to us at this stage, but we always knew that would be the case, that we’d have some work to do with them late on.”

At least four players have already been ruled out of next week’s game.

Zane Tetevano is expected to be fit for round one. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos.

Full-back Jack Walker (foot), stand-off Rob Lui (quad muscle) and half-back Callum McLelland (groin) all picked up injuries earlier in pre-season and winger Ash Handley, Super League’s top try scorer in 2020, suffered medial ligament damage last Sunday which is expected to sideline him for six weeks.

Agar confirmed Handley was the only casualty from the game at Huddersfield and said: “Everybody else has a chance of playing.”

Rhinos are hopeful captain Luke Gale, who tore a pectoral muscle in the first pre-season weight session three months ago, will be given the green light, but Agar will have to make a decision on whether to give a debut to Kyle Eastmond, who has been back in rugby league just two weeks after a decade in union.

Fellow signing Zane Tetevano was not risked last weekend because of a tight hamstring, but is also expected to be available to face Wakefield, along with 2020 player of the year Matt Prior who arrived back in England earlier this month.

Callum McLelland will miss the start of the season because of a groin injury. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Alex Mellor completed the second game of a two-match ban in pre-season and is available for round one.

McLelland has been one of Rhinos’ unluckiest players in pre-season.

With Gale and Lui established as Leeds’ first-choice halves, the Scotland international is yet to have a sustained run in the team and has found himself on the sidelines at the same time as other players in his position.

“He had surgery on an ankle which kept him off his feet and pretty much as soon as he got on his feet, an old groin injury flared up,” Agar revealed.

“It is in a really awkward spot and not something surgery could clear up, so it is just a case of rest.

“It is disappointing, given all the injuries with Luke Gale, Rob Lui and Jack Walker.

“It could have been a good opportunity for Cal, but he has got to get himself right first.”

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