Toulouse can avoid rout at troubled Leeds
Short-priced Rhinos lacking in confidence after season of struggle
Betfred Super League: The Qualifiers
Sky Sports Action, 3.15pm Saturday
When Leeds last found themselves scrapping for Betfred Super League survival in 2016, they breezed through the Qualifiers with the minimum of fuss to reclaim their spot in the top flight.
Leeds won six of their seven games two years ago but things may be different this time.
The Rhinos' only win in their last 11 league outings was against whipping boys Widnes and they head into the Qualifiers after a 48-12 caning by Warrington in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final.
Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield says he’s concerned and he has every right to be with Leeds showing no signs of playing anywhere near the level that won them the Grand Final less than 12 months ago.
A glance at the bookmakers’ odds may make Leeds fans feel a little more relaxed.
The Rhinos are 6-4 to win the eight-team mini-league and 2-11 to kick off the campaign with a home win over Toulouse.
The French club finished third in the second tier and have been given a handicap start of three converted tries by the layers.
Their five away games against the rest of the Championship’s top six resulted in two victories and losses by five, 13 and 18 points.
This season, Leeds have recorded only two league wins by more than Saturday's line and they came against Super League’s bottom two, Widnes and Salford.
Matt Parcell and Ash Handley have joined the Rhinos' casualty list after picking up injuries in the semi-final loss. Full-back Jack Walker will join them if he fails to shake off a hamstring problem.
Jordan Thompson is suspended but Warrington loanee Dom Crosby is available and forwards Stevie Ward and Anthony Mullally are set to return after recovering from concussion.
Toulouse have experienced duo Eddy Pettybourne and Stanislas Robin returning to the squad but this is the club’s debut in the Qualifiers, so there’s an element of guesswork for punters.
However, we know that Leeds’s confidence is brittle so Toulouse should be fancied to at least rattle them.
Backing the visiting underdogs with an 18-point start looks the bet to have.
3pts 10-11 Coral, Ladbrokes
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