Leeds Rhinos: Winger Hall’s excited by competition for places

Ryan Hall. PIC: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Ryan Hall. PIC: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
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ENGLAND WINGER Ryan Hall says he is excited by the competition for places developing at Leeds Rhinos.

An early-season spate of injuries has seen several fringe players called into action.

Ash Handley. PIC: Tony Johnson

Ash Handley. PIC: Tony Johnson

Despite being below-strength for most of their eight Betfred Super League games so far, Rhinos have lost only twice and are fourth in the table.

Teenagers Mikolaj Oledzki and Cameron Smith have both impressed in the pack and coach Brian McDermott is facing some difficult selections among his outside-backs.

Ashton Golding and Jack Walker are battling for the full-back role and Liam Sutcliffe and Jimmy Keinhorst are now available after injury and in contention for a return in the centres.

To secure a recall one of them will have to displace the in-form Ash Handley, who has scored seven tries in the last four games and has a career strike record of 32 touchdowns from 60 Leeds appearances.

That is an impressive return for a 22-year-old who is outside the elite 20-man squad and Hall said: “It’s what every team needs, you need competition like that.

“It is healthy for us and should help us in the long run. If some weeks some players miss out who are very good, capable players, that’s how it has got to be.”

Handley can also play as a winger or full-back, but has been a revelation at centre and Hall has been impressed by his fellow Oulton Raiders product.

“Obviously he has taken his chance really well,” he said. “He is a winger, but as an outside-back you can play a variety of positions and he has great attributes to fill that role. He has done really well.”

Rhinos will be aiming to back up their 20-0 Easter Monday win over Salford Red Devils when they visit Wakefield Trinity this weekend.

Trinity’s 27-26 defeat at Hull four days ago was their fourth successive loss, but Hall reckons they have dangers across the field – including winger Tom Johnstone, who he could line up with for England later this year.

“He is a good player,” Hall said of the 22-year-old flier. “He is young, athletic and really eager, but it’s not just Tom Johnstone, they have a good side who really attack well. They have shown that this season so far, even though they’ve lost a few games. We are going to have to be on the money.

“I don’t think we have got a great record going to Wakefield – we got hammered there in the Super-8s last year – so we will have to try to turn that around.

“Coming off the back of Easter we have got to find some energy from somewhere and make sure we get up for the game.”

Sunday will be Rhinos’ third match in 10 days, following a Good Friday draw at Huddersfield Giants and the victory over Salford.

Easter is the most punishing time of the season and the third game is often when the schedule takes its toll, but Hall insisted he has it easier than some of his teammates.

He said: “I am fine – I play on the wing, I don’t do any tackles!

“I’ve done a combined total over the two games of two tackles! As always, the guys in the middle do a smashing job and they have over the two games, all the defence they have to do.

“It is harder in the middle, your body goes through a lot more and that’s why I try to help out in the ways I can.

“I carry the ball as much as I can, which I’ve tried to do over the last two games.

“That went pretty well, but it’s thanks to the guys in the middle for doing a good job there.”

Meanwhile, half-back Jordan Lilley has returned to Rhinos after injury restricted him to just one game during a month-long loan spell at Leigh Centurions.