Leeds Rhinos v Hull KR: Richard Agar prepares Rhinos for ‘must-win’ approach

THE permutations have always been irrelevant to Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar: he knows his side have to be play-off ready now.

Tonight’s match against Hull KR was initially being billed as winner-takes-all with the Yorkshire rivals potentially going up against each other for the final spot in the Super League top six.

However, Castleford Tigers’ dramatic defeat to Warrington Wolves last night now means both are already secure in the play-offs without a ball being kicked, the only matter to be decided who finishes fifth and sixth.

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Nevertheless, speaking yesterday before the Tigers’ hopes were ended, Agar insisted all his side are aiming for is victory at Emerald Headingley this evening.

“It’s a little bit irrespective (what Castleford do),” said the 49-year-old.

“We’re preparing for a must-win game against a good team in front of our home fans and we’ve had no other conversations, ifs or buts, or permutations.

“We’re going out to take care of it ourselves regardless of what happens (at Cas).

“We’ve just tried to create the right mindset this week that it’s all about us and getting that win Friday night. That’s how we’ve prepared.

Leeds' Konrad Hurrell is set to return this evening. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“We have to create the right attitude getting into this part of the season. We actually feel we’re in play-off territory now and the season almost starts again.

“We’ve very much adopted the mindset of sudden death football from now.”

And, with that in mind, Agar maintained he has never considered altering his squad depending on the result at Wheldon Road so do not expect any players being rested this evening.

He added: “It’s not even been a conversation.

“We are not looking for anything other than getting our best team available to us on the park Friday night and getting a good performance out there irrespective of what comes next week.

“The personnel absolutely won’t change, depending on what goes on tonight (Thursday). We’ve not even mentioned tonight, not in any of our team meetings or anything this week.

“Don’t forget, we got whacked last week as well so trying to get our best performance out the week before the play-offs is very important; you don’t want to be going in on the back of a heavy defeat and a performance that is not where you want it.

“We’re at home, in front of our fans for the last time this year and we want to get a good performance out against some rivals and finish as high up the league ladder as possible.”

After last week’s 40-6 loss at St Helens, Leeds are boosted by the return of Tonga centre Konrad Hurrell and possibly Rob Lui.

Agar said that Mikolaj Oledzki, Alex Mellor and King Vuniyayawa would all be hoping to return from injury next week, too, to further boost their hopes in the play-offs where – if they beat KR – they will visit Wigan Warriors in an eliminator on Thursday.

Defeat tonight will see them finish sixth and head to Warrington next Friday.

Agar is an admirer of KR’s quality under Tony Smith, a coach he knows well having worked with him at Warrington.

Successive wins over Leigh Centurions and Castleford have seen them recover some of their old form and Agar said: “They’re really good. The last two games they have got some of their confidence back and their attack has looked a lot better. Last week would have been a real confidence-boosting victory against a good side.

“They did a really good job in a tight game against Cas’. The bigger picture for them is where they’ve come from, I think.

“Last year they finished bottom but were starting to sow the seeds for starting to play a style of rugby I know Tony would like and a style that is a little bit different and fitted them from personnel.

“There’s some real lessons in that for sticking with it and not changing to the point where they have turned into the team they have this year. Anyone who plays KR is fully aware of the threats of their style of rugby. At times it is high risk and very high reward but also they have probably got a better balance to it, too.

“What has stood out to me, though, is their effort defensively which has been great when it comes to covering the small areas when things go wrong. Their scramble has been outstanding.

“They have really bought into it and it’s a real nod to sticking with it and being brave.They’re reaping the rewards of it and it’s been an outstanding year for them.”