INSPIRATIONAL prop Jamie Peacock has played down his and stand-off Danny McGuire’s role in Leeds Rhinos’ return to form.
England captain Peacock and last year’s player of the season McGuire are both back in action after long injury lay-offs and their return has had a dramatic effect on the team, who won three games in nine days over the Bank Holiday period.
Peacock missed 17 matches – including the Carnegie Challenge Cup final – after rupturing anterior cruciate knee ligaments during Rhinos’ win at Castleford Tigers on August 13 last year.
He made his comeback as a substitute on Friday – also away to Castleford – just four days after McGuire returned from a similar injury, which he suffered a month after Peacock.
With two of their top players restored to the side, Rhinos look a much more confident, balanced outfit – but Peacock insisted the star duo are not the cause of the revival.
“Our comebacks have coincided with the team getting to grips with what Macca and Jimmy (coach Brian McDermott and assistant James Lowes) have been trying to install for the last three or four months,” Peacock stated..
“We are fortunate to come into a team that has finally got to task with what they are trying to teach us.
“It is not to do with us coming back, it is to do with the team playing well. If the team’s playing well, it is easier to slot in.
“If the team team wasn’t playing well, there is no way on earth we would get to do some of the things we want to try and do. It is just the team.”
Peacock added: “I have been away for eight months and it feels like coming into a different team from when I last played – and that’s in a good way.
“I think there’s a real purpose about the team and it’s a joy to play in a team like that.”
The England captain admitted to being anxious before Friday’s game, but he feels the eight-month lay-off – which gave him his first long break in years – could be beneficial in the long-term.
He said: “I was a long time out and it’s a serious injury, so I did have nerves before the game, but I just wanted to get out there and get going.
“I felt ready to play and I felt all right. At some point you have got to get out there and play and I was at that point (on Friday).
“Things went my way, but a lot of that came with the attitude and commitment of my team-mates.
“I felt pretty emotional and I am glad it is out of the way now. Before the game, I was thinking about how I felt in the warm-up before the Cas game when I injured my knee.
“Everything was creaking and I was carrying a lot of injuries. I was warming up on Friday and I felt really fresh.
“My knee was a little bit stiff, but everything else felt brilliant.”
McDermott, meanwhile, is prepared to give both Peacock and McGuire time to get back to their best.
The duo combined superbly to carve out Leeds’ clinching try against Cas, McGuire skipping over from a Peacock offload to make it 24-0 on 62 minutes, but the coach said the England pair are still feeling their way back.
“They will be a few weeks,” McDermott said. “It’s like two Messiahs have come back to rugby league with the amount of noise that has been made about them.
“They are both very influential people as well as world class players, but I reckon it’s going to be another three, maybe four, weeks before we see the true Peacock and the true McGuire.
“What we have got to do as a group is make sure we keep doing what we are doing, so that enables them to do their bit.”