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Super League: Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers preview
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Castleford Tigers will aim to extend their run of fine form and move to the Super League summit when they lock horns with West Yorkshire rivals Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on Thursday.
Only two points separate the Tigers from league leaders St Helens and their superior points difference will see them move to the top of the Super League ladder should they claim a fourth successive victory in the televised fixture, although they have beaten the Rhinos just once in the previous five meetings.
Daryl Powell’s side kept pace with the four-strong chasing pack by beating last year’s League Leaders Shield winners Huddersfield Giants 44-30 in a thrilling clash at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle last time out.
Despite a chequered period – winning three and losing two – Brian McDermott’s Rhinos hold a one-point advantage over the Tigers heading into Round 21 and will return to the top-of-the-table with a win.
The Rhinos bounced back from defeat on Friday as they eased past Hull KR 30-6 at Headingley and there was an added boost with the return of talisman Rob Burrow.
Former England halfback Burrow made his first appearance since breaking his collarbone in April and added a brace of tries. Winger Ryan Hall has called on his team-mates to rediscover consistency in form.
“The thing with rugby is, doing it once is not good enough - you need to do it consistently,” Hall told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “We have been good at that in recent years, stringing good performances together at the end of the year.
“We are at the run-in to the finals now and it is nice to get a good performance like that under our belt.
“Hopefully we can take it into this week’s game. It’s a top-of-the-table clash and a crucial game in everyone’s eyes and we are looking to come up with a similar sort of performance.”
Burrow showed no ill-effects from his return and retains his place in McDermott’s 19-man squad, which boasts four changes from the visit of the Robins.
Full-back Zak Hardaker makes his return after serving a five-week suspension, while there is also good news in the form of returns for Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Kylie Leuluai and Ian Kirke, who have all been ruled out by injury in recent weeks.
Powell has named just two changes to his side following their victory against the Giants, with experienced full-back Luke Dorn and Weller Hauraki returning to the fold.
Ashley Gibson and James Clare are the men who miss out on the travelling party and Castleford halfback Liam Finn expects the trip across the M62 to Headingley to be a testing one.
“They have been quite similar to us in the sense that by their own standards they have dipped a little bit,” Finn said of Thursday’s hosts when speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“Obviously they are still a world-class team, but for them their standards have dipped.
“They are starting to get players back though, like Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield. They’ll start ticking over and they are the types of players that bring the rest of the team up and give them that little bit of a boost and confidence.”
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leiluai, Aiton, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Kirke, Achurch, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Walters
Castleford Tigers: Dixon, Shenton, Webster, Carney, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Finn, Jewitt
Watch Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers live on Sky Sports 1HD from 7:30pm on Thursday
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Super League Table
|9||Hull K R||27||23|
|10||Salford Red Devils||27||23|
|13||Bradford Bulls *||27||10|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th February|
|20:00||Widnes vs Wigan|
|Friday 6th February|
|20:00||St Helens vs Catalans Dragons|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Warrington Wolves vs Salford Red Devils|
|Sunday 8th February|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Hull|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Leeds|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 12th February|
|20:00||Salford vs St Helens|
|Friday 13th February|
|20:00||Hull vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Widnes|
|20:00||Wigan vs Huddersfield|
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