Start Super League season earlier: Rhinos’ McDermott

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LEEDS Rhinos’ Grand Final-winning coach Brian McDermott has called for a later start to the Super League campaign in future as the weather threatens to cause more early-season disruption.

Although all seven fixtures were played on the opening weekend, one kick-off had to be delayed and a host of players were left badly hurt as a result of playing on icy surfaces.

Salford say they still have a dressing room full of players nursing painful cuts and grazes to their elbows and knees caused by a bone-hard snow-covered pitch against Castleford last Saturday.

McDermott said: “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 and it doesn’t do the game any good.

“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.”

Most Super League clubs have been forced to scour the area for suitable pitches to train on while Leeds have been using a 20-metre area of 3G at the club’s Kirkstall base.

“It’s horrible,” McDermott added. “I like the snow - I’m 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. It frustrates me every year.”

Leeds, who host Manly Sea Eagles in the World Club Challenge tomorrow week, have no worries over Saturday’s game against Wigan at the DW Stadium, which is one of the few grounds used by Super League clubs to have undersoil heating.

McDermott still has a worry over England second row forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who has yet to take part in a full training session after picking up a leg injury in last Friday’s 34-16 win over Hull KR.

“He’s being looked after by the medical staff to make sure he is right,” said McDermott. “Hopefully he will be involved come Saturday night and we will wait for advice from the medical team before we make a decision.”

There are still no places for forward Ian Kirke and winger Ben Jones-Bishop, who were members of the Rhinos’ Grand Final-winning team last October.

Jones-Bishop was in the England squad for the 2011 Four Nations Series but lost out to Lee Smith for the champions’ opening game and, according to McDermott, must bide his time in the Under-20s.

“He’s very disappointed but he’s a pro,” he said. “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 of the team, 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.

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

Wigan’s schoolboy international Jack Hughes is poised to make his full Super League debut after being called up as a replacement for injured centre George Carmont.

Hughes, who turned 20 last month, got the nod ahead of new signing Anthony Gelling after impressing in the pre-season trial games. His only previous Super League appearance was as a substitute against Harlequins last May.

Wigan coach Shaun Wane has named three other youngsters, Joe Mellor, Tom Spencer and Greg Burke, in his 19-man squad.