LITTLE GUY Jamie Jones-Buchanan is confident he can mix it with the big men in the front-row.
The Leeds Rhinos veteran, 6ft tall and weighing 15st 2lbs, admits he doesn’t fit the conventional image of a prop-forward, but reckons the role suits his style of play.
Coach Brian McDermott named Jones-Buchanan at prop for Rhinos’ season-opener against Hull KR last weekend, but has said the six-time Grand Final winner isn’t being asked to do anything differently in his new slot – and the player agrees.
“For the last few years I’ve been playing quite a lot as a middle man anyway, whether that’s at 13 or prop,” said Jones-Buchanan, who is better known as a second-row.
“I’ve been starting in the back-row, but only seemed to do 15-20 minutes there and then played a bit in the middle.
“To be honest, it suits me a bit better.
“My favourite position has always been 13, because it gives me the freedom to roam about and get on the end of some short balls.
“A lot of my game is just running and trying to play the ball quickly and doing some bigger minutes than some of the bigger guys, because I am a smaller fella.
“While that’s tough, because I am a little lad against some of those big guys, at the back end of the games it comes to fruition.
“I am just grateful to be playing anywhere in this team and just looking forward to a great season.
“I thought it was a decent start last Sunday and I certainly enjoyed myself.”
Jones-Buchanan has played in the front-row for Leeds in the past and he added: “As a kid I played a lot of prop and loose-forward.
“I can play anywhere in the pack. If you look back to 2005, (then-coach) Tony Smith started me at prop nearly every week.
“Then in 2006 I lost a lot of weight, but I started at prop then as well.
“I think people have got this stereotype of what a prop should look like – and I don’t look like it, because I’m not that big and not that fat!
“The game changes and as long as you are getting the right yards and getting the right balance, it’s not a problem.
“We’ve got JP (Jamie Peacock) and Kylie (Leuluai) and Cuthbo (Adam Cuthbertson) and Singo (Brad Singleton) who are doing a great job.
“We’ve got some big back-rowers as well, like Mitch (Achurch) so in terms of going forward we’ve got all the ingredients we need. I’ll just wear my heart on my sleeve and do my best.
“It’s not something that’s unfamiliar to me, I have played prop a lot of times and back then I used to get stick for being small as well.”
Jones-Buchanan is looking forward to getting to grips with an old mate tonight.
Widnes’ squad includes forward Chris Clarkson, who is on a season-long loan from Rhinos.
“Stevie Ward and Mitch Achurch still live with Clarky and spend a lot of time with him,” Jones-Buchanan said.
“They’ve said in terms of his own personal spirits they’ve gone through the roof because he’s been playing friendlies there and he did really well against Wigan last week.
“He is a solid player, he has got great hands for a forward and we all know what he can do.
“I’m just glad he’s developing in his own right because he’s a good player.”
Clarkson is contracted to Rhinos for 2016 and Jones-Buchanan is keen to see the former bricklayer back – not just for his on-field presence.
“He is still one of our players, he is a local lad and his dad coaches down here,” he said.
“We’ve seen him come through the ranks and there’s a lot of lads want a bit of work doing on the side – walls building, barbecues building and extensions and Clarky’s the man to go to!
“But I’m just glad he’s getting his rugby sorted.”
Of tonight’s clash, Jones-Buchanan predicted: “It will be a big game.
“Widnes showed a lot of resilience against Wigan.
“Coming back to draw that game with 12 men was pretty formidable.
“I think they will have taken a lot of confidence from that and they’ll certainly come here and want to upset us.
“But it’s all about us, we’ve just got to keep concentrating on ourselves.
“Our attack on Sunday I thought was particularly good and something we’ve worked on a lot this year.
“We need to clean up a bit in defence, because to concede 30 points is way too many, but I don’t think there’s too many things to change when you look at the fact they got a few tries off kicks.
“We have to chase back a bit better and be a bit better with our systems, but we can clean that up pretty soon.”
Leeds Rhinos: from Hardaker, T Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Jones-Buchanan, Aiton, Peacock, Ablett, S Ward, Cuthbertson, K Leuluai, Singleton, Burrow, Achurch, Sutcliffe, Yates.
Widnes Vikings: from Cahill, Carberry, Clarkson, Craven, Dean, Galea, Gerrard, Hanbury, Heremaia, Isa, Kavanagh, M Leuluai, Manuokafoa, Marsh, Mellor, O’Carroll, Owens, Phelps, Tickle.
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.