Rhinos looking vulnerable

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The Independent Online

Nobody has yet beaten Leeds in 2005, but they are gradually losing some of the cards that have been getting them out of jail. Already without their player of last season, Matt Diskin, the Rhinos must manage without Danny McGuire against Widnes today - and possibly for the next six weeks.

Nobody has yet beaten Leeds in 2005, but they are gradually losing some of the cards that have been getting them out of jail. Already without their player of last season, Matt Diskin, the Rhinos must manage without Danny McGuire against Widnes today - and possibly for the next six weeks.

It was obvious watching McGuire against St Helens last week that the familiar burst of acceleration was not quite there. The impressive thing was the way he compensated for that by playing a much more constructive, team-orientated role.

"People tend just to see his individual brilliance, but he's been doing these other things intermittently for a while," said his coach, Tony Smith. "It's when you take the individual brilliance out of it that you notice what else he does."

Even with a groin injury, McGuire still looks rather a remarkable player, but he and his club have decided that he had better have it attended to before it gets any worse.

"We'll miss him, but we're not a one-man band," said Smith. "It's an opportunity for other people - like Rob Burrow - to get more game time. He's probably unlucky not to have been starting games, but Kevin Sinfield and Danny have settled in at half-back."

At the start of the season, it might have been tempting to theorise that the visit of Widnes was one game in which a full-strength team might not have been needed. But last weekend Widnes outplayed and beat Bradford and served notice that they deserve to be taken seriously.

Much of that success was based on the old pros and hard workers in their pack, but Owen Craigie, despite his weight problems, was the match-winner. The stand-off was given weight-loss targets at South Sydney last season and reached none. There might be a lot of him for a No 6 shirt, but he was too sharp for the Bulls last week.

"Owen can change a game on his own, but Widnes were very, very solid last Sunday," Smith said. "They don't make many mistakes, and we might have to play it a bit more their way in this one."

Elsewhere today, the only other unbeaten club in Super League are in action as Wakefield go to the London Broncos. It is a mark of Trinity's improvement and expectation that they could beat Wigan for the first time in the competition last week and still leave their coach, Shane McNally, disappointed.

Hull, in action today against Warrington, saw the strike-power they have been hoping for from their new winger, Nathan Blacklock, when he raced in for a hat-trick at Huddersfield. Warrington were unconvincing against Leigh, so more from Blacklock could be too much for them to handle.

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