Leeds Rhinos: Doubling up at Easter is a good test for players – McGuire

Kylie Leuluai.
Kylie Leuluai.
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Every year there’s a huge argument in the game about Easter fixtures.

A lot of players and coaches hate the Easter schedule because it means playing twice in four or five days.

Clubs like it because it guarantees a home game on a Bank Holiday weekend and it’s good for Sky as they get more rugby to broadcast.

The argument has been going on since before I started and I expect it will continue, but for what it’s worth I actually look forward to Easter and I enjoy the back-to-back games.

It is tough, there’s no doubt about that, but that’s the challenge. It is what makes it enjoyable and it is when the top clubs with the best squads tend to stand out from the rest.

A bit like when you tell them about the Boxing Day game, it’s always quite funny when Aussie players come over and find out they’ll be playing on Good Friday and Easter Monday.

I don’t think Cuthbo – Adam Cuthbertson – was too impressed when he found out, but as British players it is part of our culture and you do get used to it.

I have been playing Thursday/Friday-Monday over Easter for 12 or 13 years now and it would be strange if we didn’t have to back-up. There’s inevitably a few changes because players will pick up bumps and bruises that don’t recover in the space of a few days, but actually it’s a couple of weeks down the line when you really feel the effects.

You tend to get through the two Easter games on adrenalin, but the matches after that period are always pretty tough. It’s a good test of your professionalism and the club’s support staff.

We’re lucky at Leeds to have some of the best conditioners and medics in the business. Jason Davidson and Chris Black know what they are doing and they make sure we get well looked after.

As long as you do all the right things – and you have a bit of luck as well – you should be able to get through it all right, physically.

Mentally it can be tough, but my best way of coping is just not to think about it.

I think that probably comes with experience and age. I am at the stage now where I tend to go from game to game and training session to training anyway.

It is something Kylie Leuluai – happy 37th birthday for Sunday, by the way – talks about quite a lot. This is probably going to be his last year and he is determined to relish every moment of it, every training session and every game.

Being a professional rugby player is a great life and you are a long time retired, so I think you tend to appreciate it, especially when you get into your 30s.

Everybody would rather play than train. The game at the end of the week is the thing you look forward to, so there’s no point complaining when two come along at once.

Over Easter you don’t train, you play and that is a good thing. I haven’t got next week’s schedule yet, but I imagine we will do recovery and a light session on Sunday to get ready for Monday’s match.

Playing two derbies helps, because it adds a bit more intensity. We have got Cas away – a lunchtime kick-off, which is a bit unusual – on Good Friday, which is always a tough game and then Wakefield at home on the Monday. They have a few ex-Leeds boys in their ranks so we know we have to be switched on for that.

Talking to past players and older fans I know they used to have three or four games in a week on occasions, so we can’t really complain. It is probably tougher for the part-time players in the Championship and League One, who have got their day jobs to fit in as well. I know the argument is that players are getting bigger and stronger and it takes longer to recover from the collisions, but at Super League level now we are all full-time and so we should be able to cope with a short turnaround, especially when it only happens once a year.

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Catalans away is one of the first games I look for when the fixture list is published.

It’s one of the most enjoyable matches of the season, but also among the toughest.

For one thing, the French fans are incredibly vocal and hostile – think Hull away and then double it.

You get booed from the moment you step on to the pitch, they get on the referee’s back and every pass is forward.

It’s a fantastic atmosphere to play in and their team usually rise to the occasion.

However they are doing in the league, their home form is usually pretty strong. They are unbeaten there this year and we will have to play at the top of our game to beat them.

We are flying there and back tomorrow, so it is going to be a long day. We are meeting at 6.30am and are due back at Headingley at about midnight, but it has worked for us the last couple of years and I think it’s better doing that – and flying direct into Perpignan – than going a couple of days early, having a long coach journey from Barcelona and being away from home for two or three nights.

I have been asked a couple of times if we owe Catalans after what happened last year.

They beat us in the play-offs at Headingley, with a try in the last seconds and that really hurt. It was a bad defeat for us in lots of ways, but they were the better team on the day and they deserved to win.

Tomorrow isn’t about revenge or anything like that. That’s something the media talk about, but players don’t usually think that way.

Last year has gone and it’s a new ball game this season. What matters to us is the here and now.

We are in a really tough run of games at the moment, with the busy Easter period coming up and we need to go there, play well and get the two points, to keep in the hunt for top spot in the table.

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