HULL KR co-captain Travis Burns concedes his side view Kallum Watkins as Leeds Rhinos’ key man given the England international is “one of the best centres in the world.”
The Australian will look to lead his team to a second major scalp in just six days tonight when they venture to Headingley fresh from Sunday’s morale-boosting 40-10 vanquishing of Super League leaders St Helens.
But the stand-off, 30, is aware that second-placed Leeds will be smarting after their surprise loss at Wakefield and said: “They’re a great side and aren’t near the top of the ladder for no reason. They have quality all over the park.
“Kallum Watkins is the best centre in the competition if not one of the best in the world.
“I have a lot of time for him – he’s a very good footballer and we’ll have to try keep him quiet. But it’s more important we worry about our own game and keep improving.
“We took a massive step forward against Saints but we have to now do it against Leeds, too.
“We put a performance in there last year to get the win and we can take confidence from that.”
Burns was instrumental in that 16-12 success last August, just as he was in last weekend’s stirring victory over Saints, just three days after fellow countryman Craig Sandercock was sacked as head coach at Craven Park.
“It was a massive win for the the boys after all the drama of the week with Sandy going like that,” said the former Penrith Panthers No6.
“He’s someone I hold in high regard and I knew him back home.
“He coached me in the ranks at Manly when I first came through and made my debut in the NRL and I do have a lot of time for him. It’s a pretty cut-throat business but that’s the way the club has gone.”
Assistant Chris Chester took over and the young Wakefield-born coach, a former Halifax, Wigan and Hull FC stand-off, will be looking for his second successive win this evening.
“Chessie has taken over and he’s done a great job having learned so much off Craig and also Justin Morgan before him,” added Burns.
“He’s definitely done his time. It’s very trying times at the club but it’s time for a new chapter. I’m disappointed Craig has gone but we have to move on and have a good finish to this season.”
Hull KR are pushing for a place in the play-offs and, ahead of last night’s game at Wakefield, were just a point adrift of eighth-placed Widnes Vikings.
“There’s still eight rounds to go so that’s 16 points up for grabs,” added Burns, who guided Rovers to eighth last season.
“We do have a tough run. We should have beaten Huddersfield recently really, did it against Saints and are now off to Leeds so it’s not the easiest.
“But every game for us now is must win and we do go with confidence.”