THERE IS a welcome issue for Leeds Rhinos coach Dave Furner to sort out in the backs ahead of Sunday’s crucial visit of Hull KR, but problems are mounting in the pack.
Furner, who was due to name his initial 19-man squad today, confirmed Jack Walker is available following the shoulder injury he suffered in Leeds’ defeat at Hull KR 22 days ago.
The coach will therefore have to decide between the teenager and Tui Lolohea, who has stepped in during his absence, for the full-back slot.
The situation up front is less promising with prop Wellington Albert (head) and second-row Brett Ferres (knee) ruled out through injuries suffered when Leeds lost 26-24 at Wakefield Trinity on Easter Monday and front-rower Nathaniel Peteru serving a one-game ban.
“Jack Walker has been named [in the 19],” Furner said. “I just have to have a look at that – Tui has been very good at the back.”
Albert is unavailable this weekend due to the Rugby Football League’s concussion rules and of Ferres, Furner revealed: “Brett has a lateral ligament injury, which can take a bit of time.
We are at home, our last home crowd were great and the players get a buzz out of that.Dave Furner
“There is a bit of swelling around there. He sustained it towards the end of the game, which was unfortunate.
“He has been a very good performer of ours.
“He is going to see a specialist on Monday just to make sure everything’s okay and give us a definitive time when he is right.
“With Fez not being available I have to have a look at options in our back-row, but there’s no excuses for us.
“We have just got to make sure we perform the way we need to perform and concentrate on the areas we need to improve in.”
Prop Tom Holroyd has yet to recover from an ankle problem, but Cameron Smith – who sustained bone damage to a foot in the loss at Hull KR – is “close” to being available and fellow back-rower Carl Ablett is “finally back on the park” following ankle surgery, Furner said.
Another second-row Stevie Ward (knee) remains on the long-term casualty list and of prop Dom Crosby, has yet to play this year following ankle and knee surgery, Furner said: “I think he’s still probably four or five weeks away.”
Centre Konrad Hurrell will miss the Hull KR game with the hamstring problem he picked up against Huddersfield Giants on Good Friday, but Furner insisted: “The injury isn’t as serious as we first thought.”
Hopes of new signing from Cronulla Sharks Ava Seumanufagai arriving in time to face Hull KR seem to have been dashed as the New Zealand-born front-rower is yet to receive his work permit/visa. The process has been delayed by the Easter weekend and then Anzac Day, which was today, but Rhinos hope the player could make his debut away to Salford Red Devils on Friday, May 3.
Furner said: “We are waiting to get that cleared and then he’s on the first available flight. I know he is excited, I spoke to him [on Wednesday]. We are doing all we can possible to get him here.”
Furner says he knows nothing about reports suggesting Rhinos have made a big-money offer to Hull for England centre/stand-off Jake Connor.
“It hasn’t come through me,” Furner insisted. “I don’t think so. He is a good kid, I am not saying I wouldn’t have him, but no.”
Meanwhile, the coach will be looking for better execution from his side in Sunday’s four-pointer at the foot of the table.
“They are very creative with the ball,” Furner said of Hull KR. “I know Tim [Sheens] quite well, I know how he coaches, but we need to be better than last [Monday’s] game.
“We ran for something like 1,800 metres and we gifted them two tries, from our execution. We weren’t clinical enough.
“We have got to look after our own backyard and make sure we tidy up those areas.
“I know what Hull KR will bring, I don’t think either team has got their starting team, but I am confident of the squad we’ve got and looking forward to Sunday’s clash.”
Furner admitted Rhinos didn’t “play the way I know the team can play” at Trinity, but stressed: “That’s been dumped now. Hull KR are in a similar situation to us, but it’s about us and us performing.
“We are at home, our last home crowd were great and the players get a buzz out of that. We’re hoping to get another good crowd on Sunday and perform in front of that.”
Furner has welcomed the Rugby Football League’s crackdown on attacking players throwing the ball at defenders trapped in the ruck in a bid to win penalties.
He said: “I called for that after the Catalans game. It’s bad for our game and I’m glad [it is being tackled]. It is an attractive sport and when played the right way it is a great game to watch. To be able to do it this part of the season is great.”