McDermott challenges Leeds pack
Leeds coach Brian McDermott is calling on his players to "take up the slack" following the loss of Jamie Peacock, starting with the visit of St Helens in the first live Monday night Super League match of the season at Headingley.
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Peacock, who has been in tremendous form this year, could be out for up to two months with a knee injury while second rower Carl Ablett, who has proved a superb stop-gap centre this season, is facing a similar lay-off with a broken bone in his hand.
"We're going to miss JP's presence," McDermott said. "He's not just a leader off the field, some of the things he does with the ball are amazing.
"The whole team are going to have to pick up the slack and it's the same with Carl Ablett, who has been a quiet operator for us this year.
"He's one of those blokes you don't realise how good he is until he's missing. He's very good defensively and he gets people away in the line.
"These things happen. There will be chances for a couple of young fellas and the team that takes the field on Monday will be more than capable."
Winger Joe Vickery is set to make his first appearance for almost two months, forwards Richard Moore and Brad Singleton are vying for Peacock's spot and teenager Liam Sutcliffe is hoping to make his Super League debut after being named in McDermott's 19-man squad.
St Helens have England international Jon Wilkin back from a two-match ban and second rower Sia Soliola returns from injury as they look to end a five-match losing run.
Although he is still without the services of influential duo James Roby and Jonny Lomax, Saints coach Nathan Brown believes the club's 16-day break, forced on them by their early exit from the Challenge Cup, has been beneficial.
"The players have come back energetic," he said. "We have been able to train together and do things as a squad.
"We haven't been able to do that for a long time and now we can as we have people healthy enough to do things.
"We don't want to be out of the cup but you have to try and take the positives.
"To freshen players up who have played a lot of footy and get players back is a good thing and now we can look at the second half of the season."
St Helens' surprise cup defeat by Hull KR has enabled them to concentrate on their climb up the table and Leeds, too, have only one competition to aim for following their loss to Huddersfield in last week's fifth-round Challenge Cup tie.
McDermott admits that 24-8 defeat hit his team badly and he expects a reaction from them tomorrow.
"We've a few dented egos," he said. "The fellas are keen to play right now, they're ready to go and we'll be in good shape come Monday."