Assessing Leeds Rhinos’ squad situation as early-season forward shortage strikes

Aaron Bower
Rohan Smith Leeds RhinosRohan Smith Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith - Alamy

We may only be two rounds in to the 2024 Super League season, but injuries are hitting some clubs hard already: and one of those sides is Leeds Rhinos.

Rohan Smith’s men could be without as many as 10 frontline players for Saturday’s clash with the high-flying Catalans Dragons at Headingley – but while they appear well stocked to cover for some key men in certain areas, they look desperately short already in others. One of those areas is undoubtedly the front-row, with a number of props sidelined for this weekend and beyond – and Leeds are also light on wingers, too.

Here’s the latest on Leeds‘ injury situation – and the options they could be weighing up as they aim to bounce back from last week’s defeat at Hull KR.

Who’s definitely injured?

We know of half a dozen players definitely sidelined for Saturday afternoon and they’ve now got two fit players sat on the sideline through suspension in the shape of Sam Lisone and James Donaldson.

Former Samoa prop Lisone has been given a three-match ban by the match review panel, whilst utility forward Donaldson will sit out the next two matches after his sin-binning at Craven Park last Thursday.

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The Rhinos could still be without England international Mikolaj Oledzki for Saturday, having missed the Hull KR game due to a shoulder injury. Fellow prop Tom Holroyd is closing in on a return to action but his return date has yet to be confirmed.

James McDonnell was named in Smith’s 21-man squad last week but didn’t play. The Ireland international back-rower could return this week, which would be a much-needed boost to the pack. Another key forward, Morgan Gannon, has been forced to sit out the next three months following another issue with concussion. Kieran Hudson is also continuing his recovery from a long-term injury, robbing Smith of another option in the front-row.

Throw in wingers Max Simpson, Derrell Olpherts and David Fusitu’a, and it’s easy to see where the two big issues lie.

Casualty Ward: Leeds Rhinos

  • David Fusitu’a (knee, Round 9)
  • Mikolaj Oledzki (shoulder, Round 3)
  • Tom Holroyd (knee, Round 3-4)
  • James McDonnell (hamstring, Round 3)
  • Morgan Gannon (concussion, approx May)
  • Derrell Olpherts (hip, Round 4)
  • Max Simpson (ACL, approx March)
  • Lachlan Miller (illness, Round 3)
  • Kieran Hudson (Achilles, TBC)


  • Sam Lisone (Round 6)
  • James Donaldson (Round 5)

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Who could step in at prop?

There are some first-team props still available to Smith. French international Justin Sangare has arguably shown his best displays in an impact role from the interchange bench – but he may well be asked to start again this weekend, alongside his fellow countryman Mickael Goudemand.

Promising prop Tom Nicholson-Watton was included in Smith’s 21-man squad and didn’t make the cut for the matchday 17, but his Super League debut might be sooner than you think.

Leon Ruan, 20, came off the bench in last week’s defeat at Hull KR, showing good signs with some strong carries. It’s likely that he’ll feature again this week.

Cameron Smith could step in at prop and move away from loose forward but it is clearly far from an ideal situation for Smith so early in the new season.

When could Leeds start to get some bodies back?

As mentioned, there is imminent good news on Holroyd, whose knee injury is close to being resolved. He could well be available to the Rhinos in the short-term.

Olpherts is likely to be the next player available from the list of injury victims, with Fusitu’a still some weeks away and the severity of Oledzki’s shoulder problem still unclear. Smith will likely provide an update on that in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

    BIG READ: Super League Team of the Week: Hull KR trio, Leeds winger, three players from Catalans Dragons