Later start called for by McDermott to help avoid frustration

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Frustrated Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott has labelled Super League’s early start “madness” and claimed the winter weather is threatening to ruin the sport as a spectacle.

While understanding the difficulties of the fixture process, he struggles to comprehend how the game continues to start off in such unappealing conditions and has urged for a re-think.

None of the opening matches were postponed last weekend but the icy conditions brought plenty of controversy and there is a fear some games will be hit this time around.

Aside from playing, clubs are struggling to find training venues and McDermott admitted: “It’s horrible. I like the snow and am a bit of a rustic man – I like to go out for winter walks.

“But, in terms of professional sport, it’s madness. I can’t stand it and this frustrates me every year.

“If climate change means that every single winter is going to be under snow for a period of time, we need to look at when we start our competition because it’s just madness.

“It’s frustrating. It doesn’t do the spectators any good, it doesn’t do the players any good – no-one likes playing in minus five – and it doesn’t do the game any good.

“It affects skill levels and we should start later.

“I know it’s not as simple as that because we have to get 27 league rounds in but it needs looking at.”

Leeds’s game at Wigan tomorrow evening is almost certain to go ahead though given their opponents have undersoil heating and the tie is scheduled to be televised live on Sky Sports.

It will be the Rhinos’ final outing before the World Club Challenge game against Manly in a week’s time and competition for places is heating up more than the weather.

McDermott hopes England second-row Jamie Jones-Buchanan will overcome the leg injury picked up in their win against Hull KR, but he has still yet to train this week.

Chris Clarkson is waiting in the wings, as is Richard Moore, but Grand Final winner Ian Kirke has failed to work his way back after injury and Four Nations England winger Ben Jones-Bishop is also again left out of the squad.

Revitalised Lee Smith has kept Jones-Bishop – rated as one of the best young talents in the game – out for a second successive week and McDermott said: “He’s very disappointed but he’s a pro.

“He has to keep working and wait for his spot. He can score 15 tries in the Under-20s but, unless the fella in front of him needs to be left out, he can’t get a shirt.

“That’s the unfortunate position he finds himself in. I can’t imagine that staying the same all year but, if it does then brilliant, because that means the two wingers who are playing are outstanding every week and I can keep having those chats with Bish’.

“He’ll get his chance and, when he does, the boot will be on the other foot.”