IN-FORM CENTRE Kallum Watkins is looking forward to what could be one of his toughest battles of the season.
Watkins has made an eye-catching start to the year, but admitted he and right-side partner Tom Briscoe will need to be at their very best on Thursday when Leeds Rhinos make the short trip to neighbours Castleford Tigers.
The home team’s left-flank combination of winger Justin Carney and centre Michael Shenton have been in outstanding form this term and a key part of Tigers’ strong start to the campaign.
Shenton – the Tigers captain – is being tipped for a call-up to the England side for this autumn’s Four Nations series and Watkins believes the ex-St Helens man deserves the plaudits he’s getting.
“I think he has been great, he has had a great season,” said Watkins.
“He has got a big fella outside him in Justin Carney, so he has got plenty of options there to give him the ball, but he is looking good and he’s back to where he was before.”
Carney, now in his second season with Tigers, is one of the most devastating attacking players in the competition and Watkins admitted Leeds will need to keep him in check.
“He is a certain challenge you have got to take care of,” Watkins said.
“He is going to get a lot of ball in his hands and he is really destructive and really powerful as a runner.
“We have got to do a really good job on him.
“He is having a great season, as he did last year. They have shown faith in him and given him a new deal, which is good for him.
“He seems to be enjoying it at Cas, so we are looking forward to the challenge.
“We have got to be aware of him, we know he is going to make some yards and he might make some breaks, but we are there as a defensive team to cover that.
“We have got to be really strong with him and the whole of their team, because they are going really well.”
Watkins reckons facing Tigers at Mend-A-Hose Jungle could be a bigger challenge than a home clash with Wigan, who Leeds beat 28-12 three days ago.
“They are going very well,” he said. “The team is gelling well and (coach) Daryl Powell is doing a great job there.
“They are bonding and getting some really good results.
“It is a derby, it will be a high-intensity game.”
He added: “It will be a packed ground and they will be up for it.
“We have got to go with our A game and try and match them and hopefully we can do.
“There’s a good rivalry with Cas, we are looking forward to going there on Thursday and it should be a great night.”