TONIGHT’S VISIT of St Helens is massive for Leeds Rhinos – but so is every game between now and the end of the season, according to club legend Rob Burrow.
Super League round 20 began with Leeds in top spot, one point ahead of Saints and two clear of Wigan Warriors.
Burrow said: “It’s massively important. At this stage, regardless of who you are playing, you want to perform well and get some good wins under your belt.
“The fact there’s a point between us and Saints makes it extra-special. We have had a dip in form over the last five or six weeks in general, so we need to be good now and how close it is on the table gives us a bit more incentive.”
July is a huge month for Rhinos, who travel to Wigan in six days’ time, complete the regular rounds against Salford Red Devils and Catalans Dragons and then face Saints again in a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final.
“All games are important, but maybe early in the season you can rotate your squad and change things around a bit,” Burrow said. “But the way the system is now, you have to finish as high as you can and then you go into this unknown thing of the Super-8s. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes because we don’t know the fixtures yet, but every game from now on is massive and we need to play well in every game, building up to the next stage.”
The new format introduced this year will see First Utility Super League’s top-eight teams play-off for semi-final spots, while the bottom-four face the Kingstone Press Championship’s leading quartet for the right to be in the elite competition next year.
“It’s really different and it means all games are play-offs games, they all count,” Burrow said. “To us it’s just like a larger play-offs system and every game is vital. It is exciting, especially when it’s new. Until a year has gone by with the system you won’t know how it’s going to work, but the league has proven how exciting it is anyway and every minute does count.
“But when you get to this unknown stage it is vitally important you’re in top form – and you have to do that over quite a long period, rather than just a couple of games. I can’t wait to get involved in it, because it’s like knockout rugby in a way.”
That is what tends to bring the best out of Rhinos and Burrow said: “We have had times in the past when we’ve performed well in situations like that. If we get a fit squad and everyone playing together well and combining well we are confident we can do a job.”
The Cup semi-final draw has added extra spice to tonight’s clash, which was already being billed as the biggest game of the season so far, but Burrow said: “There’s a month until the semi-final and they are different competitions.
“They are both vitally important – if we win the semi we are in the final, win this one and we go three points clear of Saints. We aren’t looking at the Cup game yet, all we are focusing on is the league and that’s what we’ve got for the next short while.”