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Preview: Leeds v Rochdale (C. Cup R5)
Great Britain star Kevin Sinfield will return to the Rhinos starting line up on Friday night in the Powergen Challenge Cup clash with Rochdale at Headingley Carnegie, kick off 8pm.
He is one of four changes to the squad that lost to Hull last week. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Jamie Peacock and Gareth Ellis are all rested whilst Richard Mathers has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
That means there is a return for Ali Lauitiiti, who missed last weeks game with a shoulder injury, Chris Feather, Ian Kirke and Danny Williams to the 18 man squad.
The squad in full is: 2. Scott Donald 3. Chev Walker 4. Keith Senior 5. Lee Smith 6. Danny McGuire 7. Rob Burrow 8. Ryan Bailey 9. Matt Diskin 11. Ali Lauitiiti 13. Kevin Sinfield (c) 14. Shane Millard 16. Willie Poching 17. Mark O?Neill 19. Chris Feather 20. Nick Scruton 21. Carl Ablett 22. Ian Kirke 26. Danny Williams
- Phil Daly, Leeds Rhinos Media
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Darren Abram has urged his depleted squad to load up the slings and fell the giant when Rochdale Hornets come face to face with mighty Leeds Rhinos on Friday.
Hornets are likely to without Ryan Benjafield, Tommy Goulden and Matty Firth for the clash, while new recruits Kevin King, Ian Gordon and Craig Dean are all cup-tied. Paul Owen (broken ribs) will definitely miss out and James Bunyan (back) is also a doubt.
Nevertheless, the Spotland coach insists the players who do take to the field can make a name for themselves by winning their individual battles against top international stars and springing a Powergen Challenge Cup shock of epic proportions at Headingley.
"In the David and Goliath competitions there has been many a David win down the years and that?s what we?re hoping for," said Abram.
"With a bit of luck the gods will shine on us and we?ll get a shock result and one of the best wins any of us have had in our careers.
"The lads will get to see first hand what international players are like in terms of stamina, strength, speed and skill.
"Most of them will not have faced top club players before, let alone top international stars, so this is a chance for individuals to make a real name for themselves.
"If somebody comes up with a big game against an international player they will get recognised, so it?s a great chance for each and every one of them to establish themselves and write their names into the history of this club."
With a host of injuries to key players and a dip in form which has seen Hornets lose their last two National League One matches, Abram acknowledged the size of the task before his side was daunting but insisted the team will give it everything.
"You only realise what players do for you when they are taken out of the side or they are missing through injury and I think what we?ve missed in the last couple of games has been Ryan Benjafield?s error-free game and the work-rate and penetration in attack and defence of Tommy Goulden," said Abram.
"I don?t think Ryan has any chance of making it for Friday while Tommy is 50/50. In addition, Matty Firth came off on Sunday with a knee ligament injury, so he is doubtful.
"When you take into account the players we have who are cup-tied for this game, lads like Kevin King and Ian Gordon, it means we are down to the bare bones.
"Nobody should be downhearted about going to Leeds. It?s no good us feeling sorry for ourselves or hoping Leeds take it easy and say ?oh, it?s okay, they?re only part-timers? ? we?ve got to go out there and take the bull by the horns and have a real go at it.
"We are going into this game wanting to win it. The players have had two defeats and they are looking to put things right. Whether it?s Leeds or Blackpool, you?ve got to put things right straight away after losing."
Abram is desperate to put on a show for the Hornets supporters and said the trip to Headingley would be a real treat for them.
"It?s a great experience for the supporters. Some will not have experienced a crowd of around seven or eight thousand. It?s great when you hear the noise of the crowd and sense the atmosphere inside the stadium.
"The entertainment at half time and afterwards is fantastic and it?s a chance for Hornets fans to see top international players up against their team."
- Richard Partington, Rochdale Observer