LONG-SERVING half-back Rob Burrow has pledged to play out of his skin to regain his status as one of Leeds Rhinos’ first-choice 13.
Burrow has endured a testing fortnight which saw him dropped to the bench for Rhinos’ trip to Wigan Warriors 14 days ago and then miss last Sunday’s game at Catalan Dragons due to suspension.
The scrum-half is back in coach Brian McDermott’s initial 19 for tonight’s visit of Hull, which has become Rhinos’ most crucial match of the season so far.
McDermott has confirmed Burrow will feature in this evening’s clash and whether he starts or comes off the bench, the player stressed he remains fully committed to Rhinos’ cause.
“There’s no doubt I want to be starting,” said Burrow, who is in his 11th season in Rhinos’ senior squad.
“That is something I always strive for. I don’t want to be a bench player, but I am still happy at Leeds.
“Leeds is a fantastic club and I want to play my rugby here and nowhere else. I will always do my best to get Leeds back on track.”
The team selection two weeks ago fuelled rumours linking Burrow with a move to his hometown club Castleford Tigers – possibly in exchange for Rangi Chase.
But the Leeds man – who is under contract until the end of 2013 – insisted that speculation is way off the mark. He stated: “There’s nothing in it at all.
“I have been hearing the rumour since the last off-season, but it is a load of rubbish. A – I would never leave Leeds unless I had to, unless they got rid of me and B – It is my testimonial season next year.”
McDermott will not reveal his team for tonight until an hour before kick-off, but whatever happens, Burrow will definitely be at the game!
“Missing out because of a suspension was something I am not used to and definitely don’t want to get used to,” said the 5ft 5ins half-back, who was banned for a dangerous tackle on Wigan’s 6ft 2ins prop Ryan Hoffman.
“It’s part of rugby, good and bad things happen in your career, but it was disappointing. I thought my 10-year clean record would have counted for me.
“I would have loved to finish my career with never having been called up, but it wasn’t to be. Now I am just looking forward to getting back into it.
“Last Sunday was the first time I’ve watched a Rhinos game on TV since I’ve been here. Even when I’ve been injured I always like to be involved and I go to every game. It was a really weird feeling not being there.”
Burrow admitted that from a distance it was hard to pin-point what went wrong last week, but he accepts Rhinos need to find some consistency soon.
“It has been an up and down season,” he said. “We showed good glimpses against Wigan and we know we can play as well as any team in the league – it is just a case of doing it on a consistent basis and at the moment, we’re not.
“All the boys are really determined and we want to do well, but things aren’t going for us. We have played Wigan twice and we haven’t won, but we’ve played well both times and we need to do that against every team in the league.”
Rhinos face successive meetings with Hull, who they visit for a Carnegie Challenge Cup quarter-final a week on Sunday.
“The next two weeks are massive,” Burrow said. “We need to get back to winning ways and we are coming up against a form side. It makes for a really big challenge.”
Forwards Ali Lauitiiti and Jay Pitts – who were 18th and 19th men last week – are included in Rhinos’ initial squad for tonight.
Kylie Leuluai has an eye injury and drops out from the side which lost in France. Zak Hardaker – who missed that game due to an ankle injury – remains on the sidelines, alongside long-term casualty Kallum Watkins (wrist).
Hull’s side will be selected from the 17 who thrashed Salford City Reds 52-16 last week, plus Craig Fitzgibbon and Sam Obst. Fitzgibbon has been struggling with shoulder and calf problems, while Obst had a calf injury.
Leeds Rhinos from: Webb, Jones-Bishop, Ablett, Smith, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Bailey, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Clarkson, Kirke, Hauraki, McShane, Burrow, Lauitiiti, Pitts.
Hull FC from: Phelps, Whiting, Turner, Yeaman, Briscoe, Washbrook, Horne, O’Meley, Houghton, Moa, Manu, Tickle, Westerman, Sharp, Radford, Dowes, Lauaki, Fitzgibbon, Obst.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Mirfield).
Kick-off: Friday, 8pm.