Boxing Day preview: Leeds Rhinos v Wakefield Trinity

Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity get their pre-season campaigns underway on Boxing Day with the return of the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge.

The two sides meet at Headingley (kick-off 11.30am) looking to get one over on their rivals while getting minutes into the majority of their squad and blooding some of their new signings.

Leeds are set to field three of their four off-season arrivals, with the halfback pair of Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer to debut alongside new forward James Bentley.

The only one of their new signings who won’t feature is winger David Fasitu’a, whose delayed arrival in the UK means he is not yet quite up to speed.

“We’re running with as strong as we can a starting team and really every fit and available player that hasn’t got any bumps, bruises or strains will play with the exception probably of Matt Prior,” said Richard Agar.

“Given where he is at and what we want to do with his pre-season, having a game of rugby at this point in his pre-season is not really going to be too beneficial for him.

“I want the new singings to really experience what a home game at Headingley is all about. They’re pretty special occasions.

“It gives individuals a really good opportunity to say ‘I mean business this year’ and ‘I’m in really good shape’, even this early.”

Leeds named a 22-man squad for the fixture at the start of the week, which included youngster Jack Sinfield who could make his first appearance.

As for Wakefield, there are a pair of trialists set to feature alongside some of their confirmed off-season signings.

Thomas Minns, formerly of Leeds, has been training with Trinity after the centre was allowed to leave a contract signed with Newcastle Thunder to be based closer to home.

He will play alongside John Davetanivalu, a 27-year-old Fijian winger who has played Rugby League for the Army and rugby union at Wasps, Birmingham Moseley and London Scottish.

Both will get the chance to press their claims for a full-time deal with the club by playing in the friendly, while some new signings can also make their first on-field impressions.

Centre Corey Hall is expected to debut on familiar territory having just left Leeds to move to Trinity, while another ex-Rhino in hooker Liam Hood is likely to also make his first appearance in new colours alongside halfback Lee Gaskell.

However, boss Willie Poching has admitted that the squad he puts out on Boxing Day will be “a bit of a mix”.

“I’ve got a team in mind,” he said. “There’s going to be a sprinkle of senior, experienced blokes but a lot of young fellas that I’m excited to have a look at and give them the opportunity to experience an environment like Headingley in front of a crowd like that.

“For a lot of those kids, it’ll be their first occasion in an arena as such so I’m really excited to see how they handle that, and I know they’re excited to be back playing again.”