SEVEN-TIME Grand Final winner Jamie Jones-Buchanan insists Leeds Rhinos will be prepared and ready to go when Hull visit Emerald Headingley tomorrow.
It will be 11 days since Rhinos’ previous game after the clash with Catalans Dragons – scheduled for last Friday – was postponed.
Hull were in action on Friday night, when they beat Warrington Wolves 21-12, but Jones-Buchanan said the postponement was not a major disruption for Leeds and he reckons there are positives and negatives to the sides’ contrasting fortunes with the weather last week.
“I don’t think it has been a problem,” he said of Rhinos’ unexpected rest.
“It was quite a short turnaround from Sunday [when Rhinos lost at Widnes Vikings] to Friday and we had a lot of players still getting over knocks.
“We had injuries anyway and you always pick things up in a game, so the extra few days could be a benefit to everybody.
“We wanted to play, but the conditions were bad and it is all about safety, that is the most important thing.
“It hasn‘t been disruptive. We have trained really well and we’ve got ourselves back on track and we are looking forward to Thursday.”
Hull’s win five days ago was their second of the season in Betfred Super League, but came at a cost with in-form prop Liam Watts picking up a three-game ban after being sent off for butting.
Jones-Buchanan said: “They had lost a few games and I think they will have wanted to play and get themselves back on track and turn things around.
“Rugby league players have that mentality, most of them anyway, like firemen of being ready for anything.
“You just go out and get the job done and see what happens. You could go out there and get smashed in the face in the first 10 minutes and get a fractured cheekbone and have to play on, so you need to be ready to do what you have to do.
“It is swings and roundabouts, they will probably be better for having a game, but fatigue-wise, they have played more than us.”
Twelve members of Rhinos’ first-team squad were unavailable for the game at Widnes Vikings due to injury or illness.
Tom Briscoe, Ryan Hall, Joel Moon, Anthony Mullally and Carl Ablett were all in contention to return last Friday and Jones-Buchanan said the extra rest will have helped their recovery.
He added: “We have got a great youth system and a great squad and a lot of young lads ready to take a step up. It is good to have young lads blooding in a pretty solid team and also to get a few players back.
“Having 10-plus injuries is quite a big thing.
“But whoever plays on Thursday night, we will be well-prepared and we’ll believe in our ability.”
Last week’s postponement delayed Rhinos’ Headingley homecoming.
They have not played on their own ground since last September, since when the old North Stand has been replaced with a temporary structure and the new South Stand has begun to take shape.
Both will be open for the first time this week and Jones-Buchanan said: “It has been a good journey, playing at Elland Road and in Melbourne. It has been an exciting start to the season, but it will be great to finally be back at Headingley again.
“The South Stand is not there anymore, but the personnel in it are and I’m excited to see what it is like. The first game with the new stands is historic for Headingley and to be part of that is great.”
Full-back Jack Walker, who suffered a knee injury in the World Club Challenge defeat in Melbourne and missed the following week’s loss at Widnes, is in contention to return tomorrow. He replaces Jordan Lilley in the only change to the initial 19-man squad named for last Friday’s postponed game.