CENTRE KALLUM Watkins is “excited” about what his combination with new Leeds Rhinos team-mate Tom Briscoe could achieve this season.
The England duo were partnered in competitive club action for the first time three days ago, when Rhinos opened their First Utility Super League campaign with a 34-6 victory at Hull KR.
The right-side pairing tore Rovers’ defence apart in the second half as Watkins sent Briscoe in for a hat-trick of tries and also scored one himself.
Watkins was impressed with Briscoe’s strength and finishing power and is looking for the combination to kick on at home to Warrington Wolves on Friday night, when he will play his 100th game for Rhinos.
“Tom was very good, he took his tries well,” said the centre. “In the second half, we had a few more opportunities than in the first.
“The first half was quite tight and quite aggressive and we didn’t manage to get the ball in much space.
“We had to go and look for it and work hard for the team. It was a really good start for us as a team and especially for Tom.
“It looked like he enjoyed himself out there and I really enjoyed playing alongside him.
“He is a really hard worker and I was happy he got three Watkins made a vital try-saving tackle moments before setting up Briscoe’s first touchdown and was happy with his contribution overall, though he admitted he is still learning.
“I thought I did good,” he said. “I think I’ve settled myself down in terms of making decisions on whether to pass or take the yards. I am still trying to learn, but it is nice to have someone outside that can finish off some decent tries.”
Briscoe got the nod ahead of Ben Jones-Bishop, who scored a second half hat-trick in Ryan Bailey’s testimonial match at the end of last month.
Watkins reckons Jones-Bishop would be an automatic pick at most other clubs and said that illustrates the strength of Leeds’ backs.
“We’ve got competition,” he said. “It is going to make our backline play a lot better than probably previously.
“Bish was unfortunate not to get in the team, but he (coach Brian McDermott) has got to pick 17 players at the end of the day and when he gets his chance, hopefully, he can take it. You want to be playing alongside somebody who will work hard and will talk to you and Tom and Bish (Ben Jones-Bishop) certainly do that.
“I am glad I don’t have the headache of having to pick between them. Whoever plays, I am really excited to play with them.”
It looked like Briscoe might become only the second player – after Alan Smith in 1962 – to score four tries on his Leeds debut when he supported Watkins’ charge late on.
Watkins admitted: “I did think about passing to him, because when Tom scored his third I went myself and I was that tired I got tackled.”
Rhinos’ under-19s begin their season against Hull KR at KC Lightstream Stadium tomorrow (7.15pm).