Rhinos v Wildcats: Teams
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Last Updated: 16/09/12 12:26am
Leeds head coach Brian McDermott admits Wakefield present 'a very tough challenge' in their opening play-off tie at Headingley on Saturday night.
The reigning Super League champions take on a Wildcats side riding on the high of a seven-match winning run, including beating the Rhinos 38-18 back on July 30.
Leeds go into the clash following a 48-24 hiding at Huddersfield and McDermott knows his side must get back to their best if they are to progress.
He told his club's official website: "I think they are a major threat and big challenge for us on Saturday night.
"I think if you gave every team in the play-offs a clubcall for who they could play in the first round, no one would pick Wakefield at this stage because of the run they are on.
"Whilst, as a club they do not have much experience of the play-offs, they have got a lot of players in their squad who are vastly experienced at playing play-off rugby and who know what it takes to win these one-off games.
"Richard Agar has done a great job there this season when you consider where they were this time last year and the squad he has moulded together.
"We are expecting a very tough challenge and we know we will need to produce our best on Saturday night."
The Rhinos have been handed a boost ahead of the clash with the news that stand-off Danny McGuire is set to return from injury.
McGuire has missed the Rhinos' last four matches, including the Challenge Cup final defeat, after damaging a knee in their home win over Widnes, but he has been named in McDermott's 19-man squad.
The hosts also welcome back hooker Shaun Lunt, who was unable to play against his parent club in Sunday's defeat at Huddersfield, and prop Ian Kirke is also in line to play despite being knocked out in the early stages of that match.
Kirke stopped breathing for a few moments after coming off worse from a clash of heads with Huddersfield forward Luke O'Donnell, but Leeds say he has passed his Cogsport test and is available for selection.
"We are in good shape for this time of year," McDermott added. "There are a number of players carrying bumps and bruises but our medical and conditioning staff are doing a great job with them and hopefully we will have everyone available this week.
"Ian Kirke has recovered well from his injury and it has been good to have Danny McGuire back in training this week.
"He is obviously a big player for us because of what he can do on the field but he is a big personality within our group and it has been good to have him with us this week."
Wakefield have made just one change from the squad which beat Salford 42-34 last time, with young centre Danny Cowling coming in to replace Matt James.
The Wildcats welcome back former Leeds favourite Ali Lauitiiti, who pulled out of last Saturday's win with a migraine.
Head coach Agar told his club's official website: "We have everybody fit and healthy in a confident mood so that's all you can ask for going into the play-offs.
"It goes without saying Ali will come straight back into the team but Kyle Trout in his performance last weekend gave himself a shout in playing this week and I am serious about that.
"I thought there was a couple of blokes that under performed at the weekend in the middle and he will get strong consideration for selection this week."
Agar believes they have good momentum going into the clash.
"We're coming in to the play-offs as the eighth best team, so everyone elses form has been better over the season, but in the second half of the year, our form has been up there with the top two or three teams.
"It's fair to say we are a team that has got a lot of momentum, and the boys are looking forward to it, and we're confident in our own ability."
But the Wakefield coach believes his players must produce a heroic defensive performance if they are to dethrone the reigning champions.
He added: "The pressure is off and we can really enjoy ourselves on the night and hopefully play our best football at Leeds. We've had a couple of close games with them in the league this year already and we know if we get our game right we can go to Headingley and put them in trouble.
"I think the big thing for us, as most people will acknowledge, is that defensively we've got to be strong for long periods of the game - especially on our own try-line.
"The speed that they've got shows that they are a danger throughout the field.
"We have built ourselves on a tremendous spirit, really good work ethic and team ethos and hopefully we can take that into the weekend with the confidence of seven wins on the trot."
Leeds squad: Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Hardaker, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield (c), Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Hauraki, Griffin, Ward, Lunt.
Wakefield squad: Mathers, Fox, Collis, Cockayne, Wood, Wilkes, Ellis, Raleigh, Lauitiiti, Washbrook, Amor, Johnson, Kirmond (c), Mariano, Smith, Trout, Cowling, Sykes, Smith.
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