Our fans can bring us home says Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar ahead of Hull FC showdown
Leeds Rhinos fans have been urged to “bring the team home” when they finally return to Emerald Headingley on Sunday.
A crowd of 4,000 will attend the clash with Hull, 444 days since Rhinos last played in front of spectators.
Leeds’ past 23 matches have taken place behind closed doors and coach Richard Agar admitted playing in empty stadiums isn’t the same.
“Our players have missed the fans and they make a big part of our performance,” Agar insisted.
“When there’s a close game on and the crowd’s right behind you, they have got the ability to bring you home.
“Although it won’t be as many as we’d like to be there, it will still be fantastic to have them part of match day again, creating an atmosphere the game has so badly missed for a long time.”
Also making an eagerly-awaited return are front-rower Zane Tetevano and full-back Richie Myler.
Tetevano was sent-off for a late tackle during Rhinos’ Betfred Challenge Cup defeat at St Helens last month - only his third appearance for the club - and subsequently suspended for four matches.
Agar said: “We’ve clearly missed him. He is one of our most senior players and the presence he brought to our team was very evident in his early performances.
“We were a bit frustrated and disappointed about the length of the ban; when you look at some of the other bans that have been dished out, we thought four games was excessive.
“It has been a difficult five weeks for him, because we had a Challenge Cup week in there too.
“He has been training all through, he’s chomping at the bit to get going and it will be a massive plus for us to get him back in the team.”
The Rhinos boss stressed he won’t be sending Tetevano out to play like a “wallflower”, but has no major concerns about the Kiwi’s discipline.
“I know he’s a middle-forward, but he’s a very smart rugby player,” he said.
“He has an extremely high rugby league intellect and he knows he got it wrong - but he didn’t get it that wrong in my opinion.
“He has suffered, sat on the sidelines watching us struggle without him in the middle of the field and the load it has put on Matty [Prior] and Mik [Oledzki].
“We will chat to him too, but I haven’t got too many worries.”
Myler is also back in Rhinos’ squad after a two-match suspension for dissent towards referee Marcus Griffiths - who is in charge tomorrow -late in the loss at Hull KR four weeks ago.
Agar admitted: “The biggest impact on our season so far, while results haven’t been going our way, is the lack of continuity in our lineup and having to put players in positions where they’re not used to playing.
“I think it would challenge any team to go through what we’ve gone through, so to get Richie and Zane back gives us a lot of experience and quality in two very important roles.”
He added: “Richie will definitely help our half-backs - that’s no detriment to Jack Broadbent who has filled in magnificently - and I would anticipate our attack having a little bit more balance.
“His influence as a full-back has been pretty good for us for a fair amount of time.
“I would anticipate him getting our defensive line organised really well and giving us some stronger options and us being a bit more clinical when attack comes.”
That could be crucial against a Hull side who have lost only twice this year, including 27-10 at home to Catalans Dragons five days ago.
“They are a very hard-working team,” Agar warned.
“Clearly their new coach has had a strong impact on them, you can see that in some areas.
“They’ve been conceding 14 points per game and I think they’ve become a really difficult team to score against.
“We need to improve our attack, we felt last week [a 15-13 extra-time win over Wakefield Trinity] it was a tight game that didn’t need to be.
“We had opportunities in the first 15 minutes to be two or three scores clear and we conceded one line break all game.
“On attack we got into some really good spots, but didn’t take some opportunities that came our way.”
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