Super League: Leeds Rhinos feeling the heat ahead of trip to Catalans Dragons

Kallum Watkins. PIC: Bruce RollinsonKallum Watkins. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Kallum Watkins. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
HERE ARE five talking points ahead of Leeds Rhinos' Betfred Super League game at Catalans Dragons on Saturday.

1: Kallum Watkins has been probably Leeds’ best player this year and his season-ending knee injury is a huge blow, for him, Rhinos and England. He is Rhinos’ most potent attacking weapon and first-choice goal kicker and his leadership on the field will also be missed. Watkins bounced back impressively from a similar anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2010 and, at 27, has years left at the top level, but with Rhinos low on form and confidence it has come at a particularly bad time.

2: Jimmy Keinhorst is an obvious candidate to step in for Watkins after being recalled from loan at Widnes Vikings. He has never let Rhinos down and was their best player during the disastrous 2016 campaign. He is being linked strongly with a move to Hull KR when his contract expires at the end of this season, but – if a deal hasn’t been done there – this could be an opportunity for him to revive his career at Emerald Headingley.

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3: Teenager Harry Newman has impressed in Rhinos’ under-19s this year and for Featherstone Rovers, and if Keinhorst isn’t going to be retained, which would be a mistake, coach Brian McDermott might opt to give him some top-flight experience. Newman has two Super League appearances to his credit and is tipped as a “future superstar” by Rovers boss John Duffy.

Jimmy Keinhorst. PIC: Jonathan GawthorpeJimmy Keinhorst. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Jimmy Keinhorst. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

4: Alternatively, Joel Moon spent most of his career at centre before switching to stand-off on a long-term basis last year. If he reverted to the three-quarters Leeds would need to bring in a half-back. Jordan Lilley signed a long-term contract last year and has hardly had a look-in since. Realistically, Rhinos are outsiders for the top-four at this stage so it might be an opportunity to give him a run in the team to prove what he can do.

5: Watkins’ is the latest in a series of injury setbacks this season that partially explain Rhinos’ recent poor run. However, players who are fit are out of form and the way they capitulated against Castleford Tigers last week was embarrassing and uncharacteristic. A huge improvement is needed by Leeds because defeats in the next two games would be catastrophic.