Emerging hooker Paul McShane has admitted he wants a starting spot in Leeds Rhinos’ side every week – and he insists he is prepared to fight for his place.
McShane has endured a difficult start to the campaign, but believes last week’s World Club Challenge win over Manly Sea Eagles could represent a turning point.
Now 22, McShane made his Rhinos debut back in 2009, three years after joining the club from Hunslet Parkside.
He made three appearances in his debut campaign, nine the following year – when he also had a spell on loan at Hull - and 18 in 2011.
McShane has been in Rhinos’ 17 for all three competitive games so far this season, but with Rob Burrow starting at hooker he has had to settle for a place on the bench.
“Ideally I would love to start,” said McShane, who has been awarded the coveted No 9 jersey.
“The coach knows that. To be part of the 17-man squad every week, I would settle for that – but I would love to push forward and start.”
McShane got on for only a short stint either side of half-time in the opening Stobart Super League win over Hull KR and was an unused substitute away to Wigan Warriors the following week.
But he got more game time against Manly eight days ago, in his first major final. That has given his confidence a huge boost after the setback a week earlier.
“Just to be part of that occasion was great,” McShane said. “It’s was great to play 40 minutes, whereas the week before I didn’t get on. That experience is definitely going to help me. Not getting on at Wigan knocked my confidence a bit, but to get back on the horse was good. To win a big game like that was amazing.”
McShane knows Rhinos will be left with egg on their faces if they slip up tomorrow, when they return to Super League action at Widnes Vikings.
Newly-promoted Widnes have lost their three Super League games so far, conceding 136 points and scoring only 38.
“This is when we’ve got to be most up for a game all year,” said the hooker.
“We are coming off a great win, but Widnes aren’t going to roll over – especially at their own ground.
“They are going to turn over some sides this year, so we need to go there prepared for a battle.
“We need to get over this hurdle. Last week has gone, now we need to get these two points, which is key at the minute.
“The World Club Challenge is behind us and we’ve got to crack on with the league. We are already behind and we’ve dropped two points, so we need to get back to winning ways in Super League.”
Tomorrow’s game will be the first time Rhinos have played a Super League fixture on an artificial surface.
Widnes’ i-pitch has become a major talking point, but McShane said the Leeds players will take it in their stride.
“We’ve got our own 3g pitch and we train on that nearly every day,” McShane said. “It’s just something we’ve got to get on with.
“We’re not concerned, the most important thing is to get back to business and get the two points we need in the league.
“Hopefully it will keep dry, because those pitches can get a bit slippery if it’s wet. But we’ll adapt to it and hopefully we’ll be all right.”
Rhinos’ players are considering wearing protective skins – which cover arms and legs – after former Leeds full-back Richie Mathers complained of being badly grazed during Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ win at Widnes three weeks ago.
McShane said that “an option”, but it’s likely the players will be left to make their own decision.
Rhinos are without Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who is facing three months on the sidelines after re-injuring a knee against Manly.
Lee Smith (ribs) remains on the casualty list, Chris Clarkson drops out from last week’s team and Ryan Bailey is a doubt due to an Achilles problem. Weller Hauraki is set for a recall and Ian Kirke, Jay Pitts and Richard Moore are all in contention to make their first appearance of the season.
Widnes picked up two significant injuries in last weekend’s home defeat by Salford City Reds, losing half-back Anthony Watts (knee) and prop Ben Kavanagh (Achilles).
Shaun Briscoe and Steve Pickersgill are back in contention, along with Hep Cahill and Simon Finnigan, who were suspended by the club for a disciplinary breach last week.
Meanwhile, Rhinos are due to visit Eton College next week.
Kevin Sinfield has been invited to speak to the Sports Society on Monday evening and the captain – plus team-mates Zak Hardaker and Kallum Watkins – will undertake a rugby league coaching clinic on the college’s famous playing fields the following day.
Widnes Vikings: from Craven, Flynn, Marsh, Isa, Ah Van, White, Hanbury, Cross, Clarke, Davies, Winterstein, Allen, Haggerty, M Leuluai, Mullally, Briscoe, Cahill, Finnigan, Pickersgill.
Leeds Rhinos: Webb, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Hardaker, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, K Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Hauraki, Delaney, Ablett, McShane, Bailey, Griffin, Kirke, Pitts, Moore.
Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 2pm.