LEEDS RHINOS coach Brian McDermott has confirmed Tom Briscoe will take one of the wing spots for Friday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final against St Helens.
Briscoe scored a hat-trick on his return from a four-month injury lay-off when Rhinos beat Catalans Dragons 36-22 last weekend to seal top spot going into the First Utility Super-8s.
He replaced teenager Ash Handley, who played every game during Briscoe’s absence and ran in 12 tries, including hat-tricks in the home and away league wins over St Helens.
Despite Handley’s form against Saints this year, McDermott said he saw enough from Briscoe on Sunday to convince him he is the right man for the job at Warrington’s HJ Stadium in two days’ time.
Briscoe – twice a Cup runner-up with Hull and a try scorer in Rhinos’ Wembley victory over Castleford Tigers last year – has reported no ill-effects from his comeback.
McDermott said: “Tom was very good. A lot has been made about the three tries he scored on Sunday, but Tom is very good in the contact area.
“He gets the team a lot of wins and a lot of go-forward comes through him.
“Tom will play on Friday, which is easy to say, but as I have said all along, the decision needs to be considered.
“Ash Handley has done a fantastic job and needs a lot of credit being given to him, but Tom was in fantastic form before his injury and all the indicators are he has come back to us in fantastic form as well, so he is our first choice.”
McDermott was also pleased with back-rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s comeback against Catalans.
The veteran forward had been out of action for almost two months and played in just two of Rhinos’ previous 17 matches due to a hamstring problem, but McDermott said: “Jamie got through the game and I thought he looked good.
“That’s testimony to Jonesy’s lifestyle, that he didn’t look out of place after such a long time out.”
McDermott was due to name his initial 19-man squad for Friday’s game this afternoon.
Rhinos finished the weekly Super League rounds a point clear of second-placed Saints and, asked if he is happy with Leeds’ form going into the semi-final, McDermott said: “Yes, reasonably.
“Even the Wigan loss, I thought we performed reasonably well and gave that a good go.
“For the last few games now we’ve played well, we’ve defended well and certainly attacked well, but the Challenge Cup is going to be different.
“I have made mention of that to the group, whatever form you think you are in or whatever trend you think the competition has got, get ready for a completely different format this week. If I knew the answers why, I would make a lot of money. I don’t know why, but the Challenge Cup games will throw up a lot of different challenges this weekend.”
Rhinos under-19s face Warrington Wolves at Crosfield tomorrow (7pm).