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Laffranchi: Professional pride and Saints v Leeds rivalry will be big factors
Updated 11:01am Thursday 27th March 2014 in Sport
SAINTS’ 100 per cent start to the season faces a monumental test on Friday when they go into the Leeds clash without seven top order players.
The news that Jon Wilkin has been banned for two matches for his reckless high tackle on Chris Riley, followed hot on the heels of on song prop Kyle Amor pleading guilty to a similar charge and taking a one-match suspension.
And that came in a week in which powerful backrower Willie Manu sustained a knee injury, joining Luke Walsh, Jordan Turner and Alex Walmsley in the treatment room.
The Manu injury is not as bad as initially feared, and although it does not require surgery it will put him out of action for the next two big games.
With all that bad news, by rights a mood of despondency should be descending after such an optimistic start to the year.
But that is not coming through from the club’s players and staff.
Rather there is a mood of rolling up sleeves and showing what those filling the boots can do in adversity.
Experienced prop Anthony Laffranchi said: “It is going to be a big test, definitely the biggest one we have faced this year - but our 17 will be up for the challenge.
“Leeds are firing on all cylinders. The majority of their squad has been together for six or seven years and they seem to be rolling on for another successful year by the looks of it.”
Saints will have it all to do if they are to still be on top of the pile come 10pm Friday, but the way things have gone this fortnight no further injuries or suspensions for the following week’s Challenge Cup clash with Huddersfield would be classed as some kind of result.
The players’ focus, however, has to be squarely on meeting the Rhinos at Langtree Park.
Laffranchi continued: “You are not going to lie, after the draw because Huddersfield away is a massive game.
“With the disruptions we have had with injury and suspensions it is a problem, but we can’t look too far ahead.
“It is a big game on Friday and that is our foremost interest and then we can focus on Huddersfield.”
Although the depleted team will have it all to do, there is no towel being thrown in from the Saints corner ahead of the visit of the old foe from Headingley.
“You pride yourself individually and we enjoy the Saints v Leeds games.
“They have great forwards and we pride ourselves on playing well against them.
“It is a SKY game and we are at home.
“There is a real rivalry that has been built up over the years - and last year of course they ended our year with that close game. That burning desire is always at the back of your mind even though we have moved on,” Laffranchi said.