New faces on show for Rhinos
24th December 2012
Leeds Rhinos will field three new faces and five members of their Grand Final-winning team for their Boxing Day challenge match against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on the new £1million Headingley pitch.
The Rhinos are without the club's seven England internationals as well as a rested Jamie Peacock, but Leeds fans will have a chance to see new signings Joel Moon, Joe Vickery and Mitch Achurch in action for the first time.
Moon and Achurch have joined the champions from Salford City Reds and Penrith Panthers respectively while fellow Australian Vickery is hoping to earn a contract during a three-month trial.
The Rhinos are without Stevie Ward and Richard Moore, who are still recovering from injury, but coach Brian McDermott includes hooker Paul McShane, who has returned from his loan spell at Widnes Vikings to line up alongside Grand Final winners Ben Jones-Bishop, Danny McGuire, Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke and Darrell Griffin.
The traditional Boxing Day clash, postponed two years ago due to frost, is guaranteed to go ahead following the reintroduction of undersoil heating as part of a new playing surface.
"The guys are looking forward to playing on the new pitch and I think it is a fantastic move for the club," McDermott said.
"We want our players to have the very best facilities and our pitch is now world class.
"This will be one of only two pre-season games we play - the other being Danny McGuire's testimonial against Bradford on 20th January - so it is an important fixture for us."
Wakefield will give a debut to high-profile Australian signing Justin Poore, while coach Richard Agar also includes fellow recruits Reece Lyne and Bobbie Goulding in his initial squad.
Goulding is the son of former St Helens and Great Britain scrum-half Bobbie Goulding who has joined the Wildcats from Warrington Wolves’ academy team.
Widnes will take a look at trialists Phil Joseph and Matty Sarsfield in their Boxing Day friendly against Warrington at the Stobart Stadium.
Former Huddersfield Giants and Swinton forward Joseph made six appearances in Super League for Bradford Bulls in 2012 before being released while ex-Wigan Warriors academy second rower Sarsfield was recently released by Huddersfield.
Warrington include prop forward Paul Wood for his first appearance since rupturing a testicle in his side's Old Trafford defeat by Leeds in October.
He is one of seven Grand Finalists set for a run-out, while half-back Gareth O'Brien makes his return from a shoulder injury.
Wolves coach Tony Smith said: "It's a great experience for some of the young lads especially.
"There'll be some senior guys in there alongside them to help them gain that experience and that's important."
Vikings coach Denis Betts said: "The squad have been back in training for almost eight weeks now so the game will be good for us and provide us with an insight into where we are at in regard to our pre-season preparations.
"As any player will tell you, there is no such thing as a friendly and, although neither team will be at full bore, given its derby status, I'm confident that it won't disappoint as a spectacle."