The Leeds coach, Brian McDermott, has wrapped three of his most battle- hardened forwards in cotton wool in preparation for next Saturday's Challenge Cup final. Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Ryan Bailey have all been rested from today's preliminary trip to London, to play Harlequins at The Stoop.
But McDermott, going back to the capital to face his former club for the first time, denies that the Rhinos will be soft-pedalling the week before they take on Wigan at Wembley. "Unless we go at it really hard, we will come away from the game frustrated," he said, stressing that Leeds still have ambitions to finish as high as fourth in Super League.
His selection gives a number of players who have been on the fringes of the team recently – such as Brett Delaney, Zak Hardaker, Jay Pitts, Paul McShane and Lee Smith – a chance to stake a late claim.
Quins are starting to look to next season, with the signings of the Australian forwards, Shane Rodney and Antonio Kaufusi, on three-year contracts this week.
Harlequins will remember, however, beating Leeds at Headingley during their purple patch at the start of this season and will be hoping to draw some inspiration from that victory. They have Oliver Wilkes, Ben Bolger and Karl Pryce back in their squad.
Later today, Wakefield host Castleford in what has become one of the game's great derby rivalries. Cas have a top-eight place to protect and have Rangi Chase back from his delayed court case in Australia to contribute to the cause. Richie Mathers, Steve Snitch and Ryan Hudson are also back in contention.
Wakefield would love to get off the foot of the table between now and the end of the season. They have Liam Higgins and Jarrad Hickey available to augment their front row.
Warrington have Lee Briers back for their trip to the Catalan Dragons, but Adrian Morley is still struggling with symptoms from his head injury and Brett Hodgson, Simon Grix, Ben Westwood and Rhys Evans are all ruled out.
The Catalans add Steve Menzies and Jamal Fakir to the squad which was surprisingly heavily beaten at Hull last weekend.
Tomorrow, Crusaders try to make it an unlikely three wins in a row since their demise was announced. A newly confident Hull are their visitors, so the hat-trick of victories may be beyond them. If Hull do slip up in Wrexham, Hull KR could displace them in the top eight by beating St Helens.Reuse content