INTERIM-Coach Richard Agar says Leeds Rhinos won’t rush long-term casualty Stevie Ward back before he is ready.
Ward has not played since Rhinos’ loss at St Helens in February, but is included in their initial 19-man squad for tomorrow visit of the same opponents.
“We are playing the league leaders, it is a massive game and it is bound to be intense,” Agar said. “We just need to know he is 100 per cent confident, he feels all right and he’s in the right head space. After such a long injury we are going to take no risks at this stage of the year. We have got a fit and healthy squad and an abundance of players ready to step in.”
Rhinos are without prop Brad Singleton who was suspended for two games after being sent-off last week. Front-rower Nathaniel Peteru has been drafted into the squad and fellow forward Cameron Smith is also in contention.
Only forwards Carl Ablett and Dom Crosby – who have not played this season – and winger Tom Briscoe are on Rhinos’ casualty list. Briscoe is due to undergo surgery on his torn anterior cruciate ligament next week.
Saints boss Justin Holbrook has named a strong squad for his team’s last game before the Coral Challenge Cup final against Warrington Wolves at Wembley in 10 days’ time. Matty Knowles is back in contention after missing three games due to a rib injury. He replaces hamstring victim Joe Paulo.
Joe Batchelor could make his first appearance since April, in place of Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Mark Percival and Theo Fages are included after being unused squad members for last week’s win at Warrington. Full-back Lachlan Coote (knee) and prop Alex Walmsley (eye) remain on the casualty list along with hooker James Roby who is described as “not quite 100 per cent”.
Leeds Rhinos: from Walker, Hurrell, Handley, Myler, Cuthbertson, Merrin, Ward, Dwyer, L Sutcliffe, Ferres, Peteru, C Smith, L Briscoe, Donaldson, Newman, Seumanufagai, Lunt, Lui, Martin.
St Helens: from Lomax, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Fages, Richardson, Thompson, Taia, Knowles, Amor, Peyroux, Lees, Ashworth, A Smith, Bentley, Costello, Batchelor, Welsby.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 7.45pm.