WEMBLEY VICTIM Rob Burrow is hopeful he will be fit enough to return for Leeds Rhinos in Friday’s must-win game at Huddersfield Giants.
But the half-back/hooker admits he will only feature if he has fully recovered from the quad injury he suffered in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final triumph 23 days ago.
Burrow was hurt racing over for a second half try and has missed Leeds’ last three games, which ended in defeat to St Helens, Catalans Dragons and Castleford Tigers.
Those losses have seen a four-point advantage at the top of the First Utility Super-8s table wiped out and Leeds are now ahead of second-placed Wigan Warriors only on for and against and a single point better off than Huddersfield and St Helens.
All the top-four clubs have at least a mathematical chance of claiming the league leaders’ shield, but Rhinos will travel to John Smith’s Stadium knowing a win would almost certainly be good enough for them to finish in pole position, for the first time since 2009.
With first-choice hooker Paul Aiton out of action for the rest of the campaign due to a broken arm, Burrow has been badly missed – and he admitted he is itching for a return to action.
“It is improving and hopefully I’ll be back for this week,” Burrow said of his injury. “But it is a quad muscle and it’s one of those you can’t come back from too early, or it’ll just make it worse and that’ll be it for the season.
“It feels good, but it’s not quite right when I run. Walking around, it’s pain-free, I don’t feel much, but I ran last week and it didn’t feel right. That was only running straight and when you are in a game you are running, twisting and turning.”
The injury came at a bad time for Burrow and Rhinos, with every game after Wembley being crucial. He said: “It’s frustrating, especially the manner it happened, at Wembley.
“It was a bit of a downer on a high. These are the games you want to play in and I want to be fit hopefully for the Grand Final, so I need to be playing week-in and week-out. I will do what I can to get back as soon as I can and hopefully I can have an impact on the team.”
Burrow is confident he could step straight back into a big match. He added: “I’ve been working hard.
“A lot of the time when you are out injured you work harder than when you’re fit. Poor Sutty [Liam Sutcliffe] has been out for ages and he gets flogged quite a lot.
“You have to keep ticking over, you can’t just rest and let it recover. I can do plenty, but it’s the running which has been a problem.”
Despite recent results, Burrow believes Rhinos are still capable of adding the Grand Final trophy to the Challenge Cup.
“Obviously the last three games haven’t been great, but I have every confidence we can bounce back and kick on for the Grand Final,” he said.
Rhinos’ injury woes increased when Kevin Sinfield suffered a dead leg in last Thursday’s 29-22 loss to Castleford. Sutcliffe, Rhinos’ other stand-off, is stepping up training after undergoing a knee reconstruction, but will not play again this season and if Sinfield fails to recover for Friday and Burrow is also ruled out, boss Brian McDermott will be forced into a major reshuffle. Danny McGuire could switch to stand-off with Jordan Lilley – who played the full 80 minutes at hooker against Castleford – moving into his specialist scrum-half slot. Under-19s hooker Robbie Ward, who has not been offered a new deal for next year, is available to step in at No 9, or alternatively McDermott could move a non-specialist into either the stand-off or hooker roles.