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Thursday 12th Jun 20:00 Round: 16
Previous Super League Meetings
22 - 24
12 - 12
40 - 18
24 - 8
8 - 32
Leeds Rhinos will put their unbeaten home record on the line against what coach Brian McDermott believes is arguably the most balanced team in First Utility Super League.
McDermott's double-chasing Rhinos have won all nine league and cup matches at Headingley so far this year but they were given a scare by Championship leaders Leigh last Friday and the coach admits they will go into Thursday's match against Huddersfield Giants in something of a slump, having lost two of their last three league games.
"Our performances haven't been great these last two weeks," McDermott said. "We're concerned about that.
"We've been in some fantastic form this year and maintaining that was always going to be difficult. I knew we'd have a blip. I don't know if this is our blip but we've had two performances below par, especially against Leigh. That's something we're going to try to rectify.
"We've got a burning desire to keep that unbeaten record at home but at the moment we've got a burning desire just to play well tomorrow night. If we play really well, usually the result takes care of itself."
Huddersfield, who won last year's league leaders shield, had a shaky start to the season but they have won six of their last seven matches and have a proud record against the Rhinos.
The Giants had won five consecutive matches with their neighbours until drawing with them at the John Smith's Stadium in March and have won on their last three visits to Headingley.
"Huddersfield are a very good team," McDermott said. "We've had a good week's preview on them this week.
"They've got one of the most balanced squads in the game, if you look at their attack lines, the strength of their pack and the potency of their outside backs and they've got some fantastic halves.
"They've been building since the days of Jon Sharp and the addition of Brett Ferres has given their whole pack a bit of presence. They've got our respect."
The Giants' visit to Headingley completes a difficult fixture schedule that saw them face St Helens and Wigan Warriors back to back and coach Paul Anderson is hoping they can pick up from where they left off against the champions, when they came from 12-0 down to win 31-22.
"It confirmed that, if we do things well and with intent, it doesn't matter who we play," Anderson said. "We have the ability to cause teams trouble and win games.
"That was evident against Wigan. We had some clear intentions on what we wanted to do. Clear intentions give you the type of performance we got and, other than the first 15 minutes, I thought we were very good value for the win."
Anderson has left out hooker Shaun Lunt, who was a member of the Rhinos’ Grand Final-winning team of 2012, while Leeds teenage half-back Liam Sutcliffe continues to deputise for Danny McGuire, who has a minor calf tear, and Ben Jones-Bishop is an automatic replacement at full-back for Zak Hardaker.
Jones-Bishop, who is moving to Salford Red Devils at the end of the season, has not played more than two matches in a row so far this year following the arrival of England winger Tom Briscoe but he is set for an extended run with Hardaker starting a five-match ban.
"Bish is a world-class back," McDermott said. "Whether he's a full-back or a winger remains to be seen but he's no slouch as a full-back and he'll bring a different type of game."
The match will mark the 300th appearance career appearance of Leeds prop Ian Kirke, who played for Hull KR, York and Dewsbury before joining the Rhinos in 2006.
Huddersfield have left out hooker Shaun Lunt, with Luke Robinson and Kyle Wood expected to share the role. Prop Craig Kopczak is back after sitting out the win over Wigan while winger Jodie Broughton and second-row forward Jason Chan are also back in contention.
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