Leeds Rhinos: Holders aiming to hit top form to topple cup rivals

Kallum Watkins
Kallum Watkins
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WE’VE GOT TO BE GOOD – that’s England centre Kallum Watkins’ assessment ahead of Leeds Rhinos’ rematch with Hull tonight.

The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup holders travel to KC Stadium for a quarter-final tie just five days after beating Hull 32-20 at Headingley in First Utility Super League.

Watkins reckons last Sunday’s game, which Rhinos led only 24-20 with five minutes remaining, has highlighted how tough tonight’s showdown will be.

But he insisted if Rhinos can reach their 15th semi-final of the summer era, it will give them a boost going into two vital league matches, against St Helens and Wigan Warriors.

Leeds have beaten Hull twice already this year – including a 43-12 away win three months ago – but Watkins predicted: “It’s a difficult game for us.

“We want to do well and we need to be good.

“We’ve got to perform well and probably better than we did on Sunday.

“We know Hull are going to come out a lot better, with their crowd behind them, but if we can get a good result it will give us a bit more confidence going into the next few weeks.”

Watkins felt Rhinos played well “in patches” on Sunday, but he added: “We’ve been that way for the past couple of weeks.

“We’re trying to get that right and build some momentum.

“We scored some really decent tries against a good Hull team who have been in form, we knew it was going to be tough and to get the result was really important.

“The first half was pretty good, but in the second we just lacked a bit of control and discipline and we put ourselves under a bit of pressure.

“It has given us some confidence, but we know we have to be better.

“We’ve been working hard in training and hopefully we’ll come up with a great performance.”

Watkins stressed Rhinos aren’t spending time worrying about their injury situation ahead of tonight’s game, despite last week’s victory coming at a cost.

Winger Tom Briscoe, who has not played since undergoing shoulder surgery in March, had hoped to be fit for this evening’s showdown with his previous club, but has suffered a setback and remains on the casualty list.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan (hamstring) and Mitch Achurch (broken thumb) are also sidelined and there are doubts over Danny McGuire (ankle), Liam Sutcliffe (knee) and Adam Cuthbertson (calf), though all have been included in Rhinos’ 19-man squad.

Watkins insisted: “I think we will be okay.

“Magsy has had a fantastic season, he has been great for us – Sutty and Cuthbo as well – but we’re not dwelling on injuries.

“Rob (Burrow) didn’t play last week and if he comes back in he will lead from the front, like he always does.

“We will see how it goes, but injuries happen, especially around the middle of the season.

“It is the teams that deal with them the best and bring people in who can do a job and help the team that come out on top.”

Tom Briscoe.

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