Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers: Jamie Jones-Buchanan tipped to swim not sink by Rhyse Martin

TODAY’S Challenge Cup derby at home to Castleford Tigers will mark the start of a new era for Leeds Rhinos as their long-serving former player Jamie Jones-Buchanan takes charge for the first time.

The 40-year-old stepped into the hot seat, on an interim basis, five days ago, when previous coach Richard Agar resigned.

Despite being on Rhinos’ backroom staff since hanging up his boots at the end of 2019, Jones-Buchanan has no experience as a head coach and Leeds’s goal kicking second-rower Rhyse Martin admits the seven-time Grand Final winner has been “thrown in the deep end a bit”.

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But Martin also believes Jones-Buchanan’s energy and passionate approach could be just what is needed to drag Rhinos out of their early-season slump.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan takes a training session as interim head coach of Leeds Rhinos in the wake of Richard Agar’s departure. (Picture: Phil Daly/SWPix.com)

Leeds have lost five of their opening six games this year and Martin, who packed down with Jones-Buchanan in his final season as a player, insisted: “He has got a lot of respect in the group.

“He has been thrown in the deep end a little bit, but he will grow into the role.

“The playing group we’ve got has a lot of experience, which will help him and the way he can motivate people and get people behind him, I think that will make a big difference.

“I am confident he can do the job.

Rhyse Martin of Leeds Rhinos in training this week. (Picture: Phil Daly/SWPix.com)

“I know he is excited for the challenge and that brings a bit of excitement into the group as well.

“I am confident we can turn things around under Jonesy,” he added.

Jones-Buchanan is unlikely to make major changes to Leeds’s line-up today and Martin insists it is the players themselves who hold the key to an upturn in form.

“It has been a bit of a strange week for us, but we have tried to focus on [today’s] game.” he said.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan takes a training session as interim head coach of Leeds Rhinos in the wake of Richard Agar’s departure. (Picture: Phil Daly/SWPix.com)

“That’s all we can really do at this point.

“We really need to find a win and we have tried to move on as best we can.

“It’s within the group, we have definitely got the team to turn things around.

“Everyone knows we’ve had a very poor start, definitely not what we expected, but I think we can do that.

“Challenge Cup weekend gives us a new focus, I am confident we can turn things around and hopefully it’s this weekend,” Martin added.

Prop Matt Prior will return to Rhinos’ 17 in place of Zane Tetevano who begins a two-match suspension.

Morgan Gannon, who was dropped when Leeds lost at Salford eight days ago, is in contention and Jarrod O’Connor, Muizz Mustapha and Liam Tindall are included in Rhinos’ initial squad after playing on dual-registration for Bradford Bulls last weekend.

Castleford coach Lee Radford could field his strongest side since taking charge in pre-season, with Adam Milner set to make his first appearance of the 2022 and Niall Evalds, Jake Mamo, Liam Watts, Nathan Massey and Alex Sutcliffe also in contention for a recall after injury.

Cheyse Blair (hand injury) and Brad Martin (suspended) drop out from the team beaten at Wigan last week.

According to prolific winger Greg Eden, Tigers are focused on getting their own performance right, rather than what effect the change of coach might have on Leeds.

“That’s for them to worry about,” said Eden of events at Headingley this week. “We just need to stick to what our plan is.

“I think over the last few weeks we’ve been very close and it’s just about us turning that corner and getting some wins, regardless of who’s coaching against us.

“We just have to be prepared for whatever happens and deal with it.”

Despite winning just one league fixture each so far this year, the rivalry between Rhinos and Castleford makes today’s 
derby the stand out tie of the round.

“Personally, I like these games,” added Eden, who has scored five tries in Castleford’s last three matches.

“The Challenge Cup is always big for me so I am buzzing for this week.

“I know it is a big one for a lot of the local boys who are from Cas.

“You can’t beat a good Cup run and, especially against Leeds, it’s one to be excited for.”