BRING IT on is the message from Leeds Rhinos’ veteran forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan on the eve of the new season.
Rhinos’ management opted not to face Super League opposition in their two full-scale trial games ahead of tomorrow’s Betfred Super League opener at St Helens.
But Jones-Buchanan insisted strong performances against Hull KR and Featherstone Rovers – who scored only four points between them – have given Leeds a solid base heading into the real business.
“I think we’re in decent shape, especially defensively,” said the 35-year-old former England man.
“There were some moments in the Featherstone game when we had to grit our teeth a little bit and work hard for each other, particularly near our goalline.
“We looked really controlled and composed. Obviously teams like St Helens will throw a little bit more at us I suspect, but training has gone really well.
“The proof is always in the pudding, but we are happy with the way things are at the minute.”
Jones-Buchanan added: “The teams we’ve played have got some dangerous players and they want to test their arm a bit.
“It is good to only concede one try, because we’ve worked really hard on our defence. I think certainly we can be a bit more cohesive with ball in hand, but it’s great now we’ve got Matt Parcell in the team.
“He’s great at getting out of dummy-half and once we get used to him and start getting some synergy I think we’ll start tearing teams apart around the ruck.
“Things are really good at the minute and everybody’s really looking forward to the start of the season.
“We are singing songs now about winning games and it’s nice to sing those songs at the end of a game.”
Rhinos had a disrupted pre- season last year, due to international call-ups and the flood damage at their training ground and did not recover until midway through the campaign.
“I think we’re going into this season a lot more educated, a lot more experienced and a lot more enthusiastic,” Jones-Buchanan said.
“We know we can’t start slowly, the pressure starts building if you do.
“You have to start well in Super League, but it’s a long season.
“We just need to get some bodies back – like Magsy [Danny McGuire] and a few other lads who missed last week – but I think the young boys we’ve got are fantastic.”
Full-back Ashton Golding was only two when Jones-Buchanan made his Rhinos debut, in 1999.
The duo attended the same school and both came from the Stanningley amateur club and Jones-Buchanan reckons Golding could be a star this year.
“I love watching him,” he said.
“He is phenomenal at the back and it’s great to see that next generation of young boys coming through.”
Tonight’s opponents Saints were beaten 22-6 at home by Castleford Tigers in their last warm-up, but Jones-Buchanan isn’t reading anything into that.
“When they evaluate their own performances over the last couple of years they’ll probably think they haven’t quite been up where they want to be,” he said.
“I think they will want to start well as well. Keiron Cunningham will have them firing out of the blocks and at their ground I expect it will be a really tough game. I can’t wait.”