Harris primed to lift Leeds

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The Independent Online

When Leeds and Castleford strive to keep their season alive tonight, the Rhinos coach, Dean Lance, will be hoping that his side got their death-wish out of the way last weekend.

When Leeds and Castleford strive to keep their season alive tonight, the Rhinos coach, Dean Lance, will be hoping that his side got their death-wish out of the way last weekend.

Leeds turned in theirworst performance since the dark days of the early season in losing to the London Broncos and the sounds coming out of the most luxurious dressing- rooms in Super League showed that Lance was far from amused. "I was concerned about going into the play-offs on the back of a performance like that," he said. "Having spoken to a few of the guys, I'm satisfied that it's a performance we can put behind us."

One obvious key to finding the improvement they need is the return of Iestyn Harris and Adrian Morley, although Morley, in his last appearance at Headingley before decamping to Australia, could need a pain-killing injection for his sternum injury. Also back is GrahamMackay, the giant winger named this week in both the Scottish World Cup squad and the Dream Team based on Super League form, after his broken nose.

That means no placefor England's young gun,Chev Walker, with Paul Sterling, who is likely to be named alongside his team-mate, Anthony Farrell, on Monday in Wales' World Cup squad, on the right wing.

As the oldest man in Super League, Sterling could also be making his final bow at Headingley. Leeds will definitely be saying farewell to Daryl Powell, who is retiring after anexemplary career.

Castleford's chances could rest heavily on the fitness of their hooker, Aaron Raper, who is described as a 50-50 proposition with his long-standing calf injury. It is feared that the problem will eventually require surgery, and Raper has told Wales that he will not be able to play for them in the World Cup.

Cas will be without Dale Fritz for the rest of the season, but give fitness tests to Barrie-Jon Mather, Jason Flowers, Nathan Sykes and Andrew Purcell.

The word most often applied to Castleford is "consistent" - meaning that they usually beat the teams below them, but rarely those above.

The complicating factor in that equation is that they invariably raise their game against Leeds. "It's a local history thing," said the Cas coach, Stuart Raper, who hopes to use it to his advantage. "It's the big city against the small town and everyone in Castleford thrives on beating Leeds.

"Records mean nothing when it comes to sudden-death footie, but it helps to know that we've beaten them this year," Raper added. "Although form doesn't mean anything coming into a semi-final, at least it will be in the back of our minds that we know we can compete with them."

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