Salford Red Devils v Leeds Rhinos: James Bentley relieved to be back in the thick of it

LEEDS RHINOS forward James Bentley has spoken of his frustration at a four-match ban and determination to make amends against Salford Red Devils today.

The former St Helens man was sent-off for a high tackle just 16 minutes into his debut for his hometown club, against Warrington Wolves in Betfred Super League round one, last month.

He was initially suspended for three games, but another match was added after he appealed against the punishment.

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The Ireland international second-rower missed games against Wigan Warriors, Catalans Dragons, Wakefield Trinity and Hull, but is back in contention for this evening and said: “It has been a frustrating four weeks, just being able to train. I feel like I have had another pre-season, but I am buzzing and I can’t wait to get back playing now.”

FLASHPOINT: Referee Chris Kendall shows the red card to Leeds Rhinos James Bentley (far right) against Warrington Wolves Picture: Tony Johnson

Bentley admitted his debut “could not have gone much worse”.

He added: “It’s a day I don’t want to remember much, but I have put it all behind me now and I am just looking forward to getting back out there with the boys, working hard and getting back to winning.”

The extra training time means Bentley, who had two long-term injuries last season, is in good shape.

“I reckon I was ready to go when it happened,” he added. “But obviously I wasn’t playing and getting that game fitness so I’ve had to work hard to keep myself as fit as I can, not moan about it and just crack on.”

Leeds Rhinos' head coach, Richard Agar

The team’s poor run of results, losing three of the four games he missed, made the layoff harder to take.

Bentley added: “It has been tough.

“I’ve seen the boys going through it and I am on the sideline.

“I can’t really do much other than do my bit in training, but I am back now and hopefully I can bring something to the team.”

After last week’s big defeat by Hull FC, the clash at Salford has become a big game for Rhinos.

“I think it’s just about us doing all the little stuff right and we will get there,” insisted Bentley.

“It is a really talented group, it is just about getting all the little things right and building from that, which I think we can do.

“A few little things have gone against us and we’ve had a few players missing with bans and stuff.

“It has been frustrating for me, I’ve not been able to help the boys out there playing, even though I am fully fit.

“I have been out before when I’ve been injured, but it’s a bit different then because you know you can’t do anything.

“But when I am banned, it is a lot more frustrating, knowing I am fit and I can’t do anything.

“I am really looking forward to (tonight) and getting out there with the boys, fixing up a few things we haven’t been doing well and going from there.”

Bentley is one of seven Rhinos players to have been suspended since their opening pre-season game against Wakefield Trinity on Boxing Day, including Matt Prior who will miss this week’s match.

The RFL have cracked down on late and high tackles this season and Bentley said: “I play the game tough and aggressive, it has probably got me to where I am today.

“That’s how I play and the sort of person I am.

“I have just got to crack on and do my game.

“Obviously it is getting stricter, we might not like it and there’s probably a lot of people who’d agree with me about that, but at the end of the day that’s what they’re doing.”

Bentley’s coach, Richard Agar, feels it is a”boost” to have the 2020 Grand Final winner back, but knows referees will be keeping him under a close watch.

“He is going to be a marked man,” he said. “He knows there are some levels he needs to find, aggression-wise, to come up with a good James Bentley performance, but also some boundaries he can’t step over.”