Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers: Richard Agar goes back to basics at Headingley

Richard Agar
Richard Agar
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IT IS the grand opening of Leeds Rhinos’ multi-million pound new North Stand tonight but interim coach Richard Agar is merely concentrating on ensuring it is not his side that embarrassingly get opened up yet again.

He cancelled the squad’s day-off on Sunday following the humiliation of Saturday’s woeful Challenge Cup loss to part-timers Bradford Bulls.

There was a need to quickly put that shocking defeat to bed given they are swiftly back in Super League action against Castleford Tigers this evening.

If Leeds are to ever pay for their gleaming £40m Emerald Headingley revamp, they certainly cannot do so if playing in the Championship, an alarming prospect that likely dawned prior to removing head coach Dave Furner last week after just four wins in 14 games.

Yet their performance did not improve during that sorry debacle at Odsal when you had to feel sympathy for Agar.

Being dropped into this mire – Rhinos are just two points above bottom-placed London – must have been the last thing he would have been expecting when, just a few weeks ago, he was immersed in a new behind-the-scenes development role at Headingley.

Still, for now, it is up to him to try and bring clarity amidst all the confusion; or, in other words, getting Leeds to simply look like a rugby league team once more.

“Where exactly are we as a group was a good place to start our meeting on Sunday,” he explained.

“What’s our starting point? There was some valuable information come back to me from the group as a collective, and from some individuals, to see what we probably need to concentrate on first to get rid of some of that anxiety that’s around us at the moment.

“We will get it right. It’s been a difficult time. It’s probably been one of the most difficult defeats that the club’s ever had.

“But our ability to bounce back from it is what’s important and I’m determined to play my part in that. I’m confident we can but I’m going to keep it really simple – not too convoluted, stripping it right back. And that for us at the moment is winning tackles; we’re not winning enough tackles and not defending well enough.

“Some ties in with effort areas and we’ve spoken about what our effort looks like. It’s not been good enough. In this sport you’re only on the ball or making a tackle for six, seven minutes per game so what are you doing when the ball is not in your hand?

“We have a fair few questions to answer on that score from last week . But we want clear focus – strip it back, back to basics – and if we do that I’m confident will start flowing better.”

Castleford will have other ideas. They are still smarting after being one of Leeds’s four victims, losing in Golden Point extra-time on their last visit to Headingley just seven weeks ago.

They have also lost four successive games, their worst run in coach Daryl Powell’s six-year reign, but he said: “I probably get hurt as much as anybody when we lose. I know this is a big game for the fans.

“They won’t be particularly happy with our form but I’d ask them to look at what’s happened to us and have a bit of patience.”