Leeds suffer injury blow ahead of final

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The Independent Online

Leeds suffered a major blow to their hopes of retaining their engage Super League crown today when full-back Brent Webb was ruled out of the Grand Final against St Helens.

The New Zealand international has suffered a re-occurrence of the back injury he sustained earlier in the season that forced him to miss three games, including the Challenge Cup semi-final against Saints in July.



Webb picked up a knee injury against St Helens a fortnight ago but that injury had cleared up earlier this week and the club were confident he would be available for Old Trafford.



Leeds say there is a strong chance that he could even be forced to withdraw from the Kiwis' World Cup squad, which is announced on Tuesday, although he will have further medical tests next week before a final decision is made.



However, the injury now means Webb will not be able to even travel across to Manchester to watch tomorrow's game.



Leeds coach Brian McClennan said: "We are all behind Brent at this time and he is bitterly disappointed to be missing out.



"We were confident earlier in the week that he would be available but then he suffered a re-occurrence of the back injury in training.



"The last time he suffered it he was out for three to four weeks and it is worse this time. He has been a huge contributor to our team and to getting us to the Grand Final.



"It is probably the worst week in his sporting life. He is devastated to miss out on Old Trafford, having missed the semi-final earlier in the year, and also possibly representing the Kiwis in the World Cup.



"He has wished the boys all the best and he will have to watch the game at home because he is in so much pain that he can not even sit down in comfort.



"Our medical staff are working with him to help him as much as they can and he knows he has got our full support."



McClennan has no plans to added to his original 19-man squad, which means that Lee Smith is likely to switch to full-back with Ryan Hall coming into the side on the left wing.

The 22-year-old Smith was also a doubt for tomorrow's game after being placed on report for kicking out in the tackle against Wigan.

He was found guilty of the offence when he appeared before the League's disciplinary panel on Tuesday but, much to his relief, escaped with a fine.



"It was a concern," he admitted. "To miss a Grand Final would have been massive. I felt I got a fair hearing though. It wasn't intentional and they could see that."



Smith, who was a tryscorer from the wing in last year's Grand Final, deputised for Webb at full-back in the Rhinos' League win over Catalans in Perpignan as well as the Cup semi-final against Saints.



But Leeds will miss the attacking flair of Webb, who is widely acknowledged as one of the leading full-backs in the game.



His likely absence from the World Cup will also be a blow to New Zealand, who sorely missed him during last year's 3-0 series whitewash by Great Britain.



Webb, who sat out that Test series in order to undergo groin surgery, is one of only two England-based players named in coach Stephen Kearney's initial 40-strong squad and was a certainty to make the final cut.







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