Super League: St Helens v Leeds Rhinos preview
Table-topping St Helens welcome in-form Leeds Rhinos to Langtree Park on Friday without a number of first-teamers.
Last Updated: 28/03/14 7:51pm
Saints maintained their 100 per cent start to the season thanks to their second-half comeback at Wakefield last weekend after Leeds, who are unbeaten themselves, brushed aside London Broncos on Friday night.
Leeds triumphed in two of the three meetings last season; they ran out 20-12 winners at Saints before losing at home 30-22 in the return fixture, although the Rhinos had the final say courtesy of an 11-10 play-off success.
St Helens might be top right now, but a string of injuries to key personnel has hurt their hopes of making it a perfect seven in 2014.
Head coach Nathan Brown is without play-maker Luke Walsh due to a calf strain. The Australian half-back had been in scintillating form prior to picking up an injury in the fixture against Catalan Dragons.
The home side are also without centre Jordan Turner while Kyle Amor, Jon Wilkin and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook are all suspended. Youngsters Andre Savelio and Lewis Charnock are promoted to Saints' 19-man squad.
"Any coach would want to play with their best players and to be honest I would like to face a full strength Leeds team this week. Those games are good to watch and are a good challenge," Brown told the club's official website.
"We have confidence in the squad; they found a way to win at the weekend and we are confident we have a good shot whatever side we put out. Playing Leeds will be a real step up for our young forwards and give us an indication of their improvement from last year."
McDermott, in contrast, is able to welcome back skipper Kevin Sinfield, forwards Jamie Peacock and Brett Delaney and also centre Joel Moon.
Experienced duo Sinfield and Peacock were rested against the Broncos at Headingley while Moon and Delaney should shake off knocks in time to face Saints.
Close-season signing Tom Briscoe also returns, but he has the task of displacing either Ryan Hall or Ben-Jones Bishop on the wings. Chris Clarkson and Ryan Bailey miss out on the 19-man party.
"I am looking forward to it and I know all the boys are," Delaney told the Yorkshire Evening Post. "It will be a good test for us to see where we are at.
"We have been building, but this is a game when we've got to show what we are made of. They are playing well and they haven't lost, neither have we, so hopefully we can get a good performance on Friday night and get a win."
St Helens: Lomax, Makinson, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Masoe, Roby, Soliola, Laffranchi, Flanagan, Wellens, Percival, Greenwood, Wheeler, Walker, Dawson, Richards, Charnock, Savelio.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, P. Aiton, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Ward, Delaney, Kirke, Achurch, Briscoe, Singleton.
Watch all the action on Sky Sports HD1 from Langtree Park as St Helens battle Leeds Rhinos from 7.30pm