Injury to Leeds Rhinos captain Luke Gale is incentive to recovering trio

LOSING your captain and chief playmaker in the first week of pre-season as well as realising your squad might only manage one warm-up game is hardly an ideal start to the new year.

Nevertheless, Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar is not someone who gets flustered easily and neither issue has left him perturbed.

England scrum-half Luke Gale will undergo surgery on Wednesday after tearing a pectoral muscle when lifting weights in the gym earlier this week.

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The former Man of Steel, so influential in his debut campaign at Emerald Headingley last year, could be missing for as long as three months, putting in doubt his place in the Leeds side when Super League resumes on March 11.

Injury blow: Luke Gale. Picture: SWPix

If England Knights full-back Jack Walker is fit – he, Alex Sutcliffe and Luke Briscoe have all been challenged by Agar to recover from shoulder surgeries in time for Round One – then No 1 Richie Myler can easily switch to his old position of scrum-half as a replacement for Gale.

If not, young half-back Callum McLelland should be fit to start training next week after his own off-season operation and he will be available to challenge.

“It is frustrating for Galey on the back of a really enjoyable year,” said Agar.

“He got to lift the Challenge Cup so to get something like that so early is a disappointment.

Sean Long training in the snow yesterday (Picture: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos)

“But it’s the sport we play unfortunately that sometimes things like this happen.”

He explained: “Luke’s enthusiasm got the better of him in the gym. He’s torn his pec through lifting and it’s just one of those things. He was fully warmed up and not really overdoing it weight-wise but he’s done it. It’s really tough to happen in the first couple of days but I guess it’s better to happen now so we can get it fixed up.

“It’s a three-month injury but once the operation is done – and I think we’ve got him booked in next Wednesday – it could possibly be nine or 10 weeks.

“Luke’s a good healer and after the initial disappointment of he can’t believe it’s happened, he’s got his head around it.

Leeds Rhinos training in the snow (Picture: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos)

“He’s unlikely to make the start of the year but he won’t be far off.”

Leeds do still have space on their salary cap for a new arrival but a prop remains their priority and Agar is unlikely to move for another creative player.

The issue of getting his squad match-ready is more complex but that will be the case at most clubs as the knock-on effects of coronavirus continues to bite.

Traditionally, Super League clubs have three or four friendlies penned in before the real business commences.

Richard Agar (Picture: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos)

However, with Championship and League One clubs – who are due to begin their campaigns on February 27 – being advised this week to “pause” training for a fortnight due to the national lockdown, planning such an itinerary might not be so easy.

Agar said: “It is difficult in the fact that we have one friendly organised against another Super League club.

“But we also usually play Hunslet in the Lazenby Cup and generally play Featherstone Rovers because of our relationship with them.

“Certainly, having spoken to (Featherstone coach) James Webster about it to try and get something organised, because of the Championship start date and our start date, it is really, really difficult to find a suitable date against a Championship club unless you play them really early,

“But because of the shortened pre-season it makes it quite hard. We will perhaps consider running around with just one friendly this year.

“Ideally, I’d like another but trying to fit that into the calender is very, very difficult.

“It is maybe even more difficult now that at the moment the Championship are closed down.

“There are some unknowns we’re dealing with at the moment and it is challenging.”

Meanwhile, Agar was delighted to see gifted young centre Harry Newman back on the field this week as he continues his recovery from a horrific double leg break suffered in September.

The 20-year-old, who is in England coach Shaun Wane’s thoughts for the World Cup this autumn, is ahead of schedule.

Agar revealed: “Harry is really in front of where he needs to be in terms of his leg. We are not going to rush him back but he is very positive. The specialist gave him the news that he is in front and that he’s coming on really well.

“He is back on his feet and is training with us, not running and joining in with us but he’s able to do a few static skills which from a mental perspective too is a sign of progression from him.

“After such a huge, traumatic injury for him, I think the way he has dealt with it has been remarkable for such a young bloke.”

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