Strength in depth vital for Leeds Rhinos in Hull KR Challenge Cup tie says England star Zoe Hornby

England forward Zoe Hornby reckons strength in depth is crucial to Leeds Rhinos women’s hopes of winning silverware this season.
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The women’s season opens with the Betfred Challenge Cup group stage, quarter- and semi-finals before Super League starts in April. Rhinos, who won 52-4 at Leigh Leopards in their first Cup game last weekend, visit Hull KR tomorrow (Sunday) and conclude the pool phase at home to Huddersfield Giants on Saturday, April 6.

Challenge Cup winners in 2018 and 2019, Rhinos were beaten semi-finalists in 2021 and runners-up in each of the past two seasons. Last year’s Wembley defeat, in particular, is still raw, but Hornby believes Rhinos have the tools to go one better this term.

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Hornby’s England teammates Caitlin Beevers and Keara Bennett will miss the early rounds because of injury and Dannielle Anderson has retired after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament for the second time in her career. With Amy Hardcastle, Evie Cousins, Sophie Nuttall, Jenna Greening and Beth Lockwood also on the casualty list last week, it could have been a tough afternoon for Rhinos.

Zoe Hornby was Leeds Rhinos' try scorer in their 2022 Challenge Cup final defeat by St Helens at Elland Road. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Zoe Hornby was Leeds Rhinos' try scorer in their 2022 Challenge Cup final defeat by St Helens at Elland Road. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Zoe Hornby was Leeds Rhinos' try scorer in their 2022 Challenge Cup final defeat by St Helens at Elland Road. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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But new signings Shona Hoyle, Liv Whitehead, Ella Donnelly and Beth McMillan all featured as Rhinos ran in 10 tries, two of them scored by Hornby and the prop insisted: “We all want it so much. With the team we’ve got this year I fully believe we are capable of winning it; we’ve just got to work hard in every single round.

“I think we’ve got the depth we’ve needed over the last few years. I hope everyone who’s injured gets back in when they can and I think we’ve got a really good set up this year, so I am looking forward to it.”

Rhinos didn’t play a warm-up game and Hornby felt there were positive signs against Leigh. “It was really good,” she added. “I think we started well and hopefully we’ll go well again on Sunday.

Zoe Hornby reckons Leeds Rhinos have more strenght in depth this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Zoe Hornby reckons Leeds Rhinos have more strenght in depth this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Zoe Hornby reckons Leeds Rhinos have more strenght in depth this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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“It is difficult to prepare when we don’t know a lot about the teams we’re playing, but we’ll just focus on what we are trying to accomplish. We’re just prepping ourselves for the teams we know we could come up against later in the competition, with full respect to the teams we are playing. You never know what they will throw at us, so we have got to be prepared for anything.”