Tomorrow, Leeds butt heads with Toulouse Olympique for only the second time in Super League and the fourth time all in all after a huge win over the French side in the 2005 Challenge Cup semi-final as well as a win over them in the qualifiers in 2018.
It’s quite a big occasion for the Rhinos who are looking for their third consecutive win of the season for the first time in 2022.
It would be a vital win as well as it would further cement Leeds’ growing play-off hopes after impressive wins over Hull FC and Castleford. The Rhinos are now five places above Toulouse in the table but this will be anything but easy for Rohan Smith’s men.
Not only are Toulouse also searching for third win in a row after triumphs over Hull KR and Wakefield which have seen them claw their way back into the battle for survival. So, they’re in form but making matters worse for the Rhinos, they’re ravaged by injury and suspension again making this one of the toughest but also most important challenges of the season.
But who exactly are Toulouse?
Toulouse’s first win of the season came against the Champions remarkably. This came after pushing Warrington and Wigan all the way in the weeks prior.
They would again push the Saints hard when they met later in France and have notched two more home wins since including playing Hull KR totally off the park in their last home game.
A different proposition at home, they play like one too.
Speaking of which, Toulouse seem to play at greater speed in France which is not something they did at Headingley earlier in the season but was something we all saw in Newcastle last week.
When they sped up the game largely due to some superb play from Nathan Peats around the ruck and the introduction of the mobile and powerful perhaps Leeds bound Justin Sangare, Toulouse got Wakefield on the back foot and began to punch serious holes in the Wakefield. This is something Leeds will have to watch out for.
The French side also like to throw the ball around and create open field which is where their key player Olly Ashall-Bott shines.
Something else Leeds will need to watch out for is the kicking game of Tony Gigot and Corey Norman. Their kicks to the corner often result in tries for the big frames of Guy Armitage, Chris Hankinson and Latrell Schaumkel.
Toulouse’s playing style will benefit them in the heat. If they can keep the ball alive and drag Leeds this way and that they will surely tire the Rhinos out especially considering the problems Rohan Smith will have in the middle.
However, Smith’s philosophy is very similar and worked wonders against Castleford last week. He’ll want something similar here dragging Toulouse outwide and turning them back in as Leeds did effectively down the right again and again with James Bentley and Zak Hardaker arching back inside to pull Castleford’s forwards one way only to heave them back down the middle. So, the weather could also benefit Leeds.
As for their expected line-up, it’ll likely be exactly the same as last week’s impressive win over Wakefield despite the potential returns of Mathieu Jussaume and James Cunningham.
27 Olly Ashall-Bott
25 Matthew Russell
21 Chris Hankinson
24 Guy Armitage
2 Latrell Schaumkel
6 Corey Norman
31 Tony Gigot
8 Romain Navarrete
28 Nathan Peats
35 Daniel Alvaro
12 Dominique Peyroux
16 Joe Bretherton
17 Joseph Paulo
7 Lucas Albert
29 Lambert Belmas
10 Harrison Hansen
23 Justin Sangare