Leeds Rhinos captain defends selection policy

On the attack: Jamie Jones-Buchanan pushes through as Willie Isa  and Taulima Tautai hold on.
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Picture: Bruce Rollinson
On the attack: Jamie Jones-Buchanan pushes through as Willie Isa and Taulima Tautai hold on. . Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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IT has caused controversy, but long-serving forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan believes coach Brian McDermott was right to field a young team against Wigan Warriors.

Leeds lost their Super League encounter 34-0, failing to score for the first time since 1998 and while they remain second in the table, they now trail league leaders Castleford Tigers by 10 points going into the Super-8s phase.

Wigan moved up a place to seventh to remain in touch with the top four, but the result means they will travel to Headingley, a ground they have not won at since 2012, in the eights.

Leeds were without 15 players who have featured in the first team this year, all of them listed as injured and the team they fielded had an average age of 22 years and five months.

At least seven of the players who sat out last week’s game are expected back for Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Hull.

Jones-Buchanan, playing out of position at hooker, captained the team and, asked if he felt the selection decision was right, he said: “I think so. Brian thinks so and I trust him immensely. He is a great coach and he is always thinking three or four steps ahead.

“Everybody has bought into that, everybody rolled their sleeves up and I thought the boys were brave.

“They played against a good Wigan side in very tough conditions after having a short period of time to prepare as a group.

“All things considered, we’re quite happy with that.”

Jones-Buchanan said Friday’s game “served its purpose.”

He added: “It was chance for the young boys to come out and get a bit of experience.

“I remember going to Wigan when I was a young boy, playing against people like Andy Farrell and Kris Radlinski and now some of our young boys have played against Sean O’Loughlin and Sam Tomkins.

“Wigan forward Willie Isa came over afterwards and said our young boys are great and I think he sees the potential in them.”

Leeds’ attention has now turned to the Challenge Cup and Jones-Buchanan is expecting a battle royal, despite eight successive wins against Hull.

Hull captain Gareth Ellis has recovered from long-term injury and the Leeds man predicted: “It is a semi-final of the Challenge Cup, the winners will go on to play at Wembley and I think it is going to be epic.

“Gareth Ellis is an old statesman and an outstanding player. I packed down with him in the back-row for Leeds for a number of years and I know what he is capable of.

“He will be rallying his troops to get to the final. They tasted it last year, they know what it’s like to win it and I’m sure they’ll want to do it again this year.

“I know they have a belief they are the strongest team in the league and they’ve shown signs of that by beating Castleford in the quarter-finals. We had a very tough game against them the other week and the semi-final will be the same, but we believe in ourselves and we have got a good team to take them on.”

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