Coach Brian McDermott admits Brett Delaney’s latest injury is a setback for Leeds Rhinos.
Delaney has recovered from off-season knee surgery, but rolled an ankle during this month’s training camp in Florida. Zak Hardaker’s return in tomorrow’s final warm-up game, at Doncaster, will leave the Australian forward as the only member of Rhinos’ full-time squad not to have played in pre-season.
“It’s not a hugely serious one in terms of time-scale, but it is frustrating,” McDermott said. “He probably won’t play (tomorrow) and the season starts next weekend, so we will have to blend him into the team without a friendly.
“But he is robust enough and I am sure he will get up to speed.” Eight players from Rhinos’ full-time squad will play tomorrow, led by full-back Hardaker in his first game since the end of last season.
Hardaker did not play during England’s Four Nations campaign and was then sidelined by an illness suffered in Jacksonville.
“It’s something and nothing,” McDermott said. “It was a bit of an illness he had on camp and we made a decision for JP’s testimonial game (Jamie Peacock’s match against Bradford last Sunday) not to throw him in, but he should be good (for tomorrow).
McDermott added: “People say to me we’ve only had one friendly – the Bradford game – but I say that is not the case, we’ve got Hunslet and Doncaster as well.
“In the past when we’ve had games like that we’ve mainly filled the team with juniors and under-19s, but increasingly we’ve started to put more and more first teamers in there and it gives them an opportunity to get some game time under their belt.”
Tomorrow’s side also includes four players – James Duckworth, Luke Briscoe, Robbie Ward and Rob Mulhern – who played for Hunslet Hawks last week on dual-registration.
Of those, only Ward has a squad number for this year and McDermott said: “Rob Mulhern and the like are predominantly going to ply their trade with Hunslet this year, but they have got every opportunity to play with us. Whether we make them full-time squad members is secondary. The first question is can they play well enough so we pick them?”