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Premiership Rugby

Leeds debut for Walker in Yorkshire derby

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Former Natal Sharks man Walker was brought in to cover for injured England Academy player Clive Stuart-Smith and his replacement Alan Dickens, with Walker aiming to give the Tykes their first win of the season after defeats to Bath and London Wasps.

With flanker Matt Salter picking up a leg injury in training this week, James Ponton comes into the team on the blindside, while on the bench loan signing Steve Millard from London Welsh replaces Jimmy Brown.

Leeds are hoping for a record crowd for the match against their neighbours, and coach Phil Davies said ahead of the encounter: "Friday night is going to be an extremely special occasion for Yorkshire rugby and hopefully a chance for the Yorkshire public to turn out in force to watch their two teams.

"I have the utmost respect for what Rotherham have achieved over the past 10 years and it is great to have two sides from Yorkshire in the top flight now. Hopefully, we can both put our disappointing starts to the season behind us and progress this season – it would be fantastic for the game in the county if this fixture could become a regular highlight in the season.

"When you look at the rivalry and intensity that is created when the Rhinos take on Bradford in Rugby League and the massive crowds those games attract, it shows the potential that is there. Friday night rugby at Headingley gives the game a special atmosphere and I’m sure that both sets of players will respond to that."

Speaking of the injuries besetting his squad, Davies added: "It was bitterly disappointing to lose another player to injury last week with Alan Dickens joining the other five players on the injury list. 

"Fortunately, we have been able to bring in Steve Millard and Ryan Walker in on loan to cover for the injuries. Ryan will come straight into the starting line-up and I am looking forward to seeing him play. I have had some good reports from South Africa on him and hopefully he will be able to make the most of his opportunity here at Leeds."

After a heavy defeat at champions London Wasps last week, Davies said: "I was pleased with the response from the players last week. Given all of the circumstances leading up to the game, it was a much improved performance and they began to show their potential.

"Our defence was strong again apart from a couple of soft tries and our set plays were much improved, we will need to continue that progression if we are to get the right performance against Rotherham.

"The squad have trained well all this week. Despite the injuries, we have to get on with the job now and hopefully once we can get some of the injured players back we will be in a stronger position."

Leeds Tykes: 15 Matt Cardey, 14 Phil Christophers, 13 Dan Scarbrough, 12 Liam Botham, 11 David Rees, 10 Duncan Hodge, 9 Ryan Walker, 8 Colm Rigney, 7 Dan Hyde (captain), 6 James Ponton, 5 Stuart Hooper, 4 Scott Morgan, 3 Matt Holt, 2 Rob Rawlinson, 1 Gary Powell.Replacements: 16 Steve Millard, 17 Michael Cusack, 18 Carl Hogg, 19 Matt Salter, 20 Mark Chester, 21 Tristan Davies, 22 Tim Walsh.

Kick-off: 20.00 (19.00 GMT)


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