Leeds Rhinos v Hull KR: Zak Hardaker faces fitness fight as Rohan Smith arrival date set

Zak Hardaker has moved a step closer to his second debut for Leeds Rhinos after being named in the 20-man squad for Friday's home date with Hull KR.

By James OBrien
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 11:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 1:13 pm

The 30-year-old rejoined the Rhinos at the start of this week, bolstering a squad stretched by injuries and suspensions.

He will, however, have to prove his fitness after reporting ill this morning, forcing Leeds to postpone a press conference with the full-back.

Hardaker has been instructed to rest by the medical team and the club remain hopeful that he will play on Friday night.

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Zak Hardaker is hoping to face Hull KR on Friday night. (Picture: SWPix.com)

The visit of the Robins will be Jamie Jones-Buchanan's final game in temporary charge after Rohan Smith was given clearance to travel.

The new Leeds head coach will arrive next Tuesday, leaving him with the best part of two weeks to prepare for his first game at the helm against Salford Red Devils on May 15.

Smith will follow Friday's game from Australia, as he did last week when the Rhinos returned to winning ways against Toulouse Olympique.

Liam Sutcliffe and Tom Briscoe drop out of the team, leaving Jones-Buchanan short of options in the backline.

Rowan Smith is set to arrive next Tuesday. (Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Sutcliffe picked up a knee injury in the victory over Toulouse, while Briscoe is nursing an ankle issue.

Back-rower Alex Mellor, meanwhile, is facing up to six weeks on the sidelines with a rib/sternum injury.

Young centre Levi Edwards is on standby to return from his loan spell at York City Knights should he be required.

Half-back Blake Austin takes his place in the 20-man squad after recovering from the head injury he sustained against Castleford Tigers, with Oli Field the other fresh face.

Blake Austin returns after missing the Toulouse game. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Jones-Buchanan is without 12 players in all for the round 11 clash.

Forwards James Bentley and Zane Tetevano are banned, while Aidan Sezer, Richie Myler (both groin), David Fusitu'a (knee), Harry Newman (hamstring), Tom Holroyd (ankle), Jack Walker (hamstring) and Corey Johnson (knee) remain sidelined through injury.

Hull KR winger Ryan Hall is set to face the Rhinos at Headingley for the first time since his departure at the end of 2018.

The 34-year-old - a six-time Grand Final winner during his time at Leeds - scored a hat-trick against Catalans Dragons on his return to the stadium last March but he was injured when Rovers visited at the end of the 2021 season.

The Robins have lost influential back-rower Kane Linnett to injury but ex-Leeds hooker Matt Parcell returns to hand Tony Smith a boost ahead of next week's Challenge Cup semi-final against Huddersfield Giants.

Elliot Minchella and Jimmy Keinhorst will also take on their former club.

Leeds Rhinos: from Handley, Austin, Oledzki, Leeming, Prior, Martin, Dwyer, Smith, Thompson, Gannon, Walters, Broadbent, O'Connor, Donaldson, Mustapha, Simpson, Tindall, Field, Sinfield, Hardaker.

Hull KR: from Coote, Crooks, Takairangi, Kenny-Dowall, Hall, Abdull, Vete, Parcell, King, Hadley, Storton, Litten, Sims, Minchella, Keinhorst, Milnes, Maher, Ryan, Wood, Richards, Tate.

Referee: James Child.

Kick-off: Friday, 8pm.