ROTATION has become commonplace for Leeds Rhinos’ three-quarters but it does not mean they need to like it.
However, for Tom Briscoe, the disappointment of missing out against champions Wigan Warriors at Magic Weekend last Saturday is at least tempered by the realisation he now has a greater chance of featuring versus former club Hull FC for the first time tonight.
Such is the wealth of options at his disposal, Leeds coach Brian McDermott finds himself on a weekly basis having to give one of his stellar backline an unenforced 80 minutes rest.
With six players – Zak Hardaker, Ben Jones-Bishop, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall and Briscoe – all battling it out for just five places, there is always one unused member.
You could actually now increase that to seven given half-back Liam Sutcliffe slotted in at centre more than comfortably for the ill Watkins as leaders Leeds fell 18-14 against Wigan in Manchester.
“Having missed out last week I want to put in a good performance, if selected this time,” said Briscoe, who scored 90 tries in 147 games for Hull before switching to Headingley last autumn.
“I want to show I didn’t really need the rest, but I have benefitted from it and I can bounce back.
“As for Hull, I will treat it as I would any other game. But I think spending six years there, it is a bit different.
“Everything has changed since I left, but I have still got good friends there and it’ll be good to play against them.
“There’s a lot of new faces as well.”
The fact some of those new faces have not settled as quickly as coach Lee Radford would have liked and the older ones have, as so often has been the case for the Airlie Birds, struggled for consistency or cohesion, means Briscoe’s erstwhile club arrive at Headingley in mired mood.
They aim to avoid a fourth successive defeat, the latest loss being a 38-24 derby defeat against Hull KR in Manchester which saw Hull jettisoned out of the play-off places.
Admittedly, they have signed ex-Kiwi international Setaimata Sa, the former Catalan Dragons centre, from London Irish this week and he should bolster their backline tonight.
“The way they started at the weekend was good and we can’t expect any different,” insisted Briscoe, who knows all about the pressure applied to players in that famous rugby league city.
“It’s a big game for them. They’ve lost a few on the trot now and they are starting to slip down the league.
“There’s a bit of pressure on the team at the minute and they will be wanting to bounce back and put in a good performance. They have got quality players. Unfortunately at the moment it hasn’t been clicking, but once it does they will be a tough team to beat,
“We have got to be ready for that and ready for a tough game.”
In contrast, while Hull have won just once in their last five outings and are out of the Challenge Cup, Leeds’s loss to Wigan was only their second defeat all season.
“We want to get back to winning ways and to keep top spot,” added Briscoe, who has scored nine tries in his 13 games with Leeds so far.
“I think the first half of the Castleford game (two weeks ago) wasn’t one of our best performances either, but we managed to sort that out at half-time.
“Against Wigan things didn’t go right at certain times in the game and they took advantage of that.
“We want to put in a good team performance and a full 80-minute performance as well. We want to stay top for the rest of the season and I don’t see why we can’t do that, the quality we’ve got and the form we’ve been in of late.
“I think hopefully we will push the loss to the side, as just a blip in the season.
“We have been intense in training this week and hopefully we will bounce back.”
For all their issues, Hull have the capability to take their game to a high level over 80 minutes –their Challenge Cup semi-final epic against Warrington Wolves last season a case in point – and Featherstone-born Briscoe has quickly recognised that is also familiar with all Leeds’s opponents.
“Moving to this club, everyone seems to raise their game against us,” he said.
“Hull are no different to that. Everyone wants to be playing in the big games and with us sitting top of the league everyone wants a crack at us and a chance of knocking us off there.
“It is a big game for us, coming off the back of a defeat.”