BRAD SINGLETON will captain Leeds Rhinos for the first time on Boxing Day as head coach Brian McDermott names his strongest available side to face Wakefield Trinity in the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge.
Prop Singleton, 25, has just enjoyed a fine World Cup for Ireland having also won his second Grand Final with Rhinos in October.
The Cumbrian will lead out a side that sees all three of the club’s major new signings –Richie Myler, Brad Dwyer and Nathaniel Peteru – ready to make their debuts at Belle Vue (kick-off 11.30am).
Six members of the squad that beat Castleford Tigers at Old Trafford are named as Rhinos – due to the ongoing construction work at Emerald Headingley Stadium – play away on Boxing Day for the first time since a 24-20 win against Hull FC at the Boulevard in 1994.
Ex-Warrington and England scrum-half Myler, who has joined from Catalans Dragons, will team up with Jordan Lilley in the half-backs in an exciting looking partnership while Singleton’s fellow Ireland World Cup star Anthony Mullally is also in the pack but at loose forward.
Ashton Golding gets the nod at full-back ahead of Jack Walker, the teenager who played there in the Grand Final, while ex-England players Tom Briscoe and Carl Ablett both get a run-out. A number of players are unavailable following post-season operations while England duo Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins plus Australian quartet Matt Parcell, Mitch Garbutt, Joel Moon and Adam Cuthbertson will return to training in the New Year.
It is only the fourth occasion since 1890 that Leeds and Wakefield have met at Belle Vue on Boxing Day, the last meeting seeing a 16-14 Leeds win in 1954.
Last season, Trinity gave signal of their intent for the impressive season they enjoyed under Chris Chester with an emphatic 30-6 winners at Headingley in the corresponding fixture.
Rhinos: Golding; Briscoe, Keinhorst, Sutcliffe, Handley; Myler, Lilley; Peteru, Dwyer, Singleton, Ablett, Walters, Mullally. Substitutes: Walker, Smith, Ormondroyd, Oledzki, Jordan-Roberts, Newman.
Widnes Vikings have added a second Papua New Guinea international to their squad with the signing of prop Wellington Albert. The 23-year-old joins the Vikings from Queensland Cup champions PNG Hunters after impressing with a series of powerful performances in his country’s run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Vikings coach Denis Betts said: “Through seeing him firsthand at the Rugby League World Cup, I identified that Wellington would have the right qualities to enhance our team.”