London Broncos v Leeds Rhinos - Veteran pack man Jamie Jones-Buchanan lined up to play but Stevie Ward won’t be risked
VETERAN LEEDS Rhinos forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan is in contention to face London Broncos this weekend, but long-term casualty Stevie Ward won’t be risked.
Jones-Buchanan has not played since suffering a hamstring/back-problem in previous coach Dave Furner’s final game, at Salford Red Devils in May. Interim-boss Richard Agar revealed the 38-year-old, who is retiring at the end of this season, will be included when Rhinos’ initial 19-man squad is named on Friday.
“He will definitely get some football before the end of the year,” Agar confirmed. “He might get a game this week, he is genuinely in contention to play.
“He has trained really well. He has had a tough time trying to get himself as right as we need him to be and some of our middles have done all right during the period since he last played, but he is in the squad this week. We need to ensure we are bang on the money attitude-wise and energy-wise and I can’t think of any better guy to ensure we do that, particularly where he is in his career.”
Agar added: “We envisage him playing over these last three games and I hope he gets a run at Headingley. That would be fitting but, at the same time, we will be picking teams based on getting results. Sentiment, given our predicament, won’t override doing what’s right for the team but, having said that, he is in with a chance of playing this week.”
Ward has undergone two operations after suffering a knee injury in February. He warmed up before Leeds’ win against Catalans Dragons earlier this month and was a non-playing member of the 19 for the loss to St Helens two weeks ago.
Agar said: “Stevie’s hand is up for selection, but that has come late in the week. We’ve had a patchy two weeks and some time off and we would like him to have some more time to train with us and get used to some combinations, wherever he plays. We feel we have enough cover at this moment in time.”
Agar confirmed any changes to the team for Sunday will be tactical rather than enforced.
“[We will] take into consideration the opposition and little bits of stuff we need to fix up and be a little bit better at this week,” he stressed. “There won’t be too many changes, but one or two minor ones in there.”
London are bottom of the table, two points and four places behind Rhinos. Last year’s million pound match winners were expected to struggle in the top-flight, but Agar described their contribution to the competition as “brilliant”.
He said: “They have been outstanding and they will be highly motivated and highly energised. It is their last home game of the season and they will see it as a wonderful opportunity to get points against a rival down at the bottom end of the league.”
Agar warned: “Despite having some tough losses they always turn up and have a crack for each other. They are a team with a wonderful spirit, they are going into the last three rounds fighting to stay up and they will probably think they are in a really good spot if they can knock two of their last three games off.
“We have got a very healthy respect for them. They play a style of footy that suits them and a different style in their home games and they are a team that try extremely hard and ensure you have to work really hard to score points.”