Leeds Rhinos: Mac is hopeful key players on way back

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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LEEDS RHINOS coach Brian McDermott expects to have a much stronger side available for Friday’s home clash with Hull KR.

Leeds had nine senior players missing and fielded five teenagers in the team which lost 16-14 at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats three days ago.

But McDermott insisted an improving injury situation is “something to be positive about” as Rhinos look to get back on track.

“We have a chance of getting Rob Burrow (broken collarbone) back this week,” McDermott confirmed.

“Also Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Kylie Leuluai (both calf injuries). Zak Hardaker’s available (after suspension) the week after.

“Kevin Sinfield (back) and Chris Clarkson (Achilles) have a chance for Friday, but Carl Ablett (shoulder) is probably going to be two more weeks.”

Sinfield had been due to play on Friday, after missing the previous game five days earlier.

But McDermott said: “He wasn’t in great shape all week. He trained with us on Thursday, but right at the back end he tweaked his back again.

“He woke up a bit better on Friday, so it was a bit of a call we made – I made that. We have still got a fair way to go this year. Kev put his hand up to play and he could have battled through, but he clearly wouldn’t have been right.

“We pulled him out before the warm-up. He wanted to have a go at playing, but I’m not sure that that would have been the smartest thing.

“Even in practice on Thursday he had to pull out when he was practising goal kicks because he wasn’t in good shape.”

Of Sinfield’s injury, McDermott said: “He’s had an impact there. As a general rule if you give something a bang, once it settles down it’s all right.

“It’s the tweaks and twists and strains that linger. There is some worry there, it’s on bone, but I’m sure he will be right this week.

“If he isn’t, we won’t play him again. We are talking about Challenge Cup finals and semi-finals and play-offs and we want to have Kev ready and fit and in a good state before we get to that stage.”

Centre Joel Moon went off in the second half against Wildcats, after damaging a shoulder before the break.

“He was managing himself on the wing for a fair bit,” McDermott said. “We could not make that change because of the personnel we had missing.

“He is a tough fella, he toughed it out for 30-40 minutes before he finally came off.”

McDermott had no quibbles with Friday’s result, despite some controversy involving the video referees.

Wildcats’ Danny Washbrook had a touchdown awarded in the first half when there was a suggestion he didn’t have control of the ball, while late on a Danny McGuire try was ruled out for an alleged knock-on by Ryan Hall – despite the ball being offloaded on to his arm.

“I don’t have a complaint,” McDermott said. “Wakefield played well enough to win that game, but I didn’t think we were terrible.

“I was disappointed with a range of things. I thought parts of our defence weren’t switched on enough.

“We knew we had to be good against their forwards. We clearly had some fellas missing so their forwards were going to have an effect.

“We had a strategy defensively, but I thought they made too many yards up the middle, which allowed them field position. Then we talked about Tim Smith. Credit to him, what a play that was at the back end, but we talked about the play that got the previous try for them as well, so that’s disappointing.

“But at the same time I thought we gave it everything and put our guts into it. You win some of those and some you don’t.”

The lack of certain key players had a bearing, but McDermott insisted: “We had enough out there.

“I thought we played well enough to win and I would not have been complaining with the win, had we held on there.

“The blokes we had out there got us in front, so it’s fair to assume we had a good enough team to win.

“But we didn’t. Credit to Wakefield, I thought they played well, played enthusiastic and challenged us a fair bit.”

Meanwhile, Wildcats are unbeaten in four games since James Webster took over from Richard Agar as coach last month and he now feels they are virtually safe from relegation.

“It has been a while since I have thought about relegation,” he said. “For one, I am too busy. And two, I have got a group of players that are busting their backsides off to try and improve. When you get a group of people that commit to the cause the way they are, you don’t start thinking about teams catching you, you start to think about catching other teams.”

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