LEEDS RHINOS will be watching this weekend’s World Club Series with envious eyes, coach Brian McDermott admits.
For the first time, Super League’s top three clubs are in action against leading teams from Australia’s NRL.
Warrington Wolves, who finished fifth on last year’s table and were third after the play-offs, face St George-Illawarra Dragons tonight and Grand Final runners-up Wigan Warriors take on Brisbane Broncos tomorrow.
The series concludes on Sunday evening with the World Club Challenge showdown between Super League champions St Helens and Aussie title holders South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Rhinos have featured in six previous World Club Challenges, winning the title three times and McDermott conceded he is desperately disappointed not to be involved this year.
“It is a tough week for everybody in the regard that we’re not involved,” McDermott said. “We wanted to be involved, but where we finished in the league didn’t allow us to be.
“For a few reasons we want to be better next year, but one of them is that we want to be in the mix so in early spring 2016 we are involved in the World Club Challenge.”
McDermott described the new format as “pretty exciting” and he added: “I like the concept and the fact three of their teams are coming over to play three of our teams. We will get a gauge of where we are at and it gets our game on people’s lips, not just within rugby league, but within other sports as well and on Sunday we get to find out who are the World Club champions, so it will be interesting.”
Assessing the Super League clubs’ chances, McDermott said: “Warrington against St George is going to be very interesting and I think Wigan will need to play above their weight to match Brisbane.
“Given some of the fellas they’ve got missing and some of the knocks they’ve got, I think that’s going to be a tough game for them, but that’s not to say Wigan can’t do it. Wigan are a tough, resilient team.”
Langtree Park is already sold out for Sunday’s clash of the champions. “I think Saints have every chance of making it a real contest against Souths,” said McDermott, who insisted he will be rooting for home wins in all three ties.
Meanwhile, McDermott revealed he has been discussing old times with a former adversary, hooker Wayne Collins, who made 21 Super League appearances for Leeds in 1997.
Collins is now on the staff at South Sydney who visited Kirkstall earlier this week as well as training at Headingley yesterday.
McDermott said: “We had a chat about yesteryear.
“We were reminiscing about the battles Bradford had against Leeds, when he played for Leeds and I played for Bradford.
“It was a very spiteful, very vicious encounter, with Leeds having a starting pack of Barrie Mac (McDermott), Martin Masella, Marc Glanville and those type of people. We had a laugh and a talk about some of the things we used to get up to.”
Meanwhile, Leeds Rhinos under-19s face Castleford Tigers at The Jungle on Saturday (2pm).