Sport : Rugby League

Leeds hand debuts to trio

24th December 2012, 04:16pm

Brian McDermott: Looking forward to facing Wakefield

Brian McDermott: Looking forward to facing Wakefield

Leeds will field three new faces and five members of their Grand Final-winning team for their Boxing Day challenge match against Wakefield 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 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 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's academy team.

The Rugby Football League have confirmed that the Leeds fixture will be one of two over Christmas to trial three experimental rules, along with another friendly between Batley and Dewsbury.

Firstly, if the ball is kicked dead from inside the kicker's own half, the opposition will restart with a 40-metre tap.

The tackle count will also not be restarted if the ball is charged down and, finally, the feeding team at a scrum will have the option of packing down with five players or the standard six.

The changes have been proposed by the RFL laws committee in the hope of improving the game. Their impact will be assessed in the new year before any decisions are made over whether they might be adopted.

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said: "I am especially looking forward to the scrum.

"It seems to be a lost art of scoring from the scrum but this experiment will test the creativity of coaches and players and it will be interesting to see the results."

RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: "Christmas friendlies are the perfect opportunity to trial changes such as these and I would like to thank all four clubs for their willingness to participate in the experiment."

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