Peter Smith’s points to ponder: What next for Leeds Rhinos after opening-day defeat to Wire?
LEEDS RHINOS will travel to Wigan Warriors on Friday looking for a first win under coach Dave Furner.
1: Nothing has changed. It was obviously going to take time for Rhinos to find their feet this year with fresh players and a new coach and the 26-6 opening defeat at Warrington Wolves only underlined that fact. With four tough away fixtures in succession, Rhinos could be facing some short-term pain and the likelihood remains it will be a slow start, followed by better form once they have a few games under their belt.
2: But that won’t just happen. Rhinos need to improve in all areas, particularly up front. Their pack was second-best against Warrington and when a centre, Konrad Hurrell, is a team’s best go-forward, things need to change. Before last week it looked like Rhinos were a big front-rower short and that is still the case, though some players would have to move before anyone can come in.
3: The new half-back pairing of Tui Lolohea and Richie Myler is already getting some criticism, but it is early days and players in such pivotal roles do take a while to gel. Callum McLelland is gaining some game time now in the academy and he has an opportunity to put the pressure on, but Lolohea and Myler are good players, they have trained together all pre-season and should be given an opportunity over a run of matches to show what they can do.
4: Some players may still be feeling a hangover from the trauma of last season. Rhinos started well at Warrington and could have been 12-0 up, but did not react well to adversity. That was a problem throughout 2018 and they will have to be much tougher when things go against them at Wigan.
5: Injuries permitting, Stevie Ward already looks set for a big year. After a full pre-season he was one of Leeds’ best against Warrington, showing tremendous determination to score their only try. Liam Sutcliffe, despite a nasty facial injury, also showed promise in the second-row and it would be good to see him have a run of games there to show if that is his true position. That said, Cameron Smith was unlucky to miss out after a strong pre-season campaign and also deserves an opportunity.