Leeds Rhinos v Wigan Warriors: Where the game will be won - form, strengths and a prediction

Leeds Rhinos will have their work cut out when Wigan Warriors visit Headingley on Thursday.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 4:00 am
Updated Thursday, 21st July 2022, 11:07 am

Coach Rohan Smith admits his men need to be “very good” as they come up against one of the form teams in Super League. Here’s an assessment of the side’s strengths and where the advantage lies.

1: Form. Wigan are second in Betfred Super League, a huge 13 points ahead of Rhinos and crushed Hull 60-0 last Friday. Leeds were beaten 20-6 at Toulouse the following day.

2: Strike players. Bevan French scored a Super League record seven tries in Wigan’s thrashing of Hull, two more than Rhinos’ Ash Handley managed against the same opposition earlier this month. French is Super League’s leading try scorer, with 20 and Jai Field (17), Liam Marshall (12) and Liam Farrell (11) are also in the top-10. Handley is fifth, with 15, but Leeds have nobody else in double figures.

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Ash Handley is the only Leeds player in double figures for tries this year. Picture Bruce Rollinson

3: Up front. Matt Prior, Zane Tetevano and Tom Holroyd remain suspended and stand-in front-rower Sam Walters is now on the casualty list, leaving Mikolaj Oledzki as Rhinos’ only senior prop. On-loan Yusuf Aydin could come into the side, but Rhinos will be up against a much bigger pack. Wigan’s former Rhinos man Brad Singleton is suspended, but England front-rower Mike Cooper could make his debut after signing from Warrington Wolves this week.

4: Attack. Saints are Super League’s top scorers with 558, at an average of 29 per game. Leeds have managed 363, at just 19.

5: Defence. That is more evenly matched. Rhinos have leaked 378 points in 19 matches, an average of almost 20. Wigan have conceded 343, at 18 per game.

6: Squad strength. For the third successive game, Rohan Smith has named only a 20-man squad. As well as the three props, both halves are missing alongside Leeds hooker and captain. The good news is Harry Newman’s availability after suspension, while Zak Hardaker (dead leg) and Liam Sucliffe (illness) could also return. Iain Thornley, Thomas Leuluai and John Bateman are Wigan’s significant absentees, alongside Singleton.

Wigan's Bevan French scored seven tries against Hull last week. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com

Prediction: It threatens to be a long night for Rhinos. Wigan have pace in the backs and are likely to be too powerful up front. An away win by around 20 points is the most realistic outcome.

Mikolaj Oledzki is the last man standing in Rhinos' front-row. Picture by Will Palmer/SWpix.com.