LEEDS RHINOS star Jamie Jones-Buchanan has warned of Hull KR’s “potential” after the two clubs were pitched together on the opening weekend of Super League action for the third time in just four years.
The 2015 fixtures were revealed last night and Brian McDermott’s side will head to Craven Park first up on Sunday, February 8 just as they did at the start of the last campaign.
Then, they were level 6-6 at the break before Tom Briscoe’s debut hat-trick catapulted them to a 34-6 win but they also defeated the East Yorkshire club at home on the first day of the 2012 season.
Leeds’ first home game is against Widnes Vikings – who reached the play-offs for the first time this year – on Friday, February 13 but second-row Jones-Buchanan said: “It’s really hard to judge what will happen yet.
“When you look at how Castleford started last year nobody would have guessed they’d have turned around so much over pre-season from 12th into what they became.
“It’s hard to make any real judgement just yet but I know I see Hull KR as a side who always have real potential.
“Over the last five or six years they have shown genuine signs and we’ve played them on the first day a few times now.
“They are always a tough proposition as we found out at the start of this year when we were level over there at half-time.
“It’s always a difficult game at Craven Park but what I think will be our saving grace this year is the fact we’ll have a lot of lads back to training early.
“We’ve only three away with England so we’ll have a really good pre-season all together and I’d like to think that will leave us in good stead for a really good start and the opening three fixtures, especially, will be all about us.”
After those initial two games, the Challenge Cup holders’ next six matches are all televised live on Sky showing that, despite finishing a disappointing sixth, they have lost none of their appeal when it comes to the broadcaster’s decision-making.
They have two Thursday fixtures – at home to Huddersfield Giants on February 26 followed by a trip to Hull FC on March 5 – before heading to Warrington Wolves on Friday March 13.
A week later, Leeds host beaten Grand Finalists Wigan Warriors before travelling to France to play Catalan Dragons – the side that knocked them out of this year’s play-offs – on Saturday, March 28.
Finally, in a change to the norm given their traditional first Easter opponents Bradford Bulls have been relegated, they will visit Castleford Tigers on Good Friday in another televised contest.
Castleford usually play derby rivals Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on that date but, perhaps as a nod to just how good they have been in 2014 when they played Leeds at Wembley and reached the top four, they will instead face the six-time Super League champions.
Ex-England international Jones-Buchanan said: “The one that jumps out at me is Catalan away. It’s always nice to get over there and out of the way before it gets too hot.
“It should be quite cool then which will suit us better.
“As for that run of six games on Sky, I’m not saying this because I play for Leeds but people are always interested in where Leeds are.
“They know we always have the potential to be a top-four side and I think the people at Sky have a good feel of what we’re about and our strengths and weaknesses.
“Even though we didn’t finish where we wanted to this year, we have a lot of good players and are really keen to get going again.
“It’ll be great to go to Cas on Good Friday, too. That will be the first time we’ve played them since the Challenge Cup final but, regardless of that, that fixture has always been massive over the years.
“Cas is definitely our next biggest derby after Bradford and I’ve always really enjoyed them especially over there at their ground which – unlike a lot of the modern stadiums – has real character, history and is a very old-school kind of place.”
Castleford start their campaign with a visit from Wakefield on February 8 before heading to Catalan themselves six days later, hoping to quickly banish the memory of their last match in Perpignan when defeat denied them the League Leaders’ Shield.
In a tough start for Coach of the Year Daryl Powell, his side then head to champions St Helens on Friday, February 27 in front of the television cameras and for the first time since their painful 41-0 play-off loss.
Wigan arrive at Wheldon Road on March 8 prior to a Thursday Sky game at 2013 League Leaders, Huddersfield Giants.
James Webster’s Wakefield, meanwhile, tackle his former club Hull KR in their first home game of the season on February 15 offering new signing Craig Hall a quick reunion with his former club. Sky visit them for the first time on Friday, March 6 when St Helens arrive while Trinity host Catalan on Good Friday and travel to Headingley on Easter Monday.