VETERAN ROB Burrow has signed on as Leeds Rhinos captain with a warning: We have to be better.
Burrow will lead Rhinos on to the field as stand-in skipper for the first time tomorrow when they face Widnes Vikings at Select Security Stadium.
And with the champions bidding to avoid a two-game losing start to the campaign and go into next week’s Dacia World Club Challenge in good form, he admitted there can be no slip-ups on Widnes’ plastic pitch.
“There’s no easy games anyway, but certainly Widnes away is a tough one,” stressed Burrow, who took over the captaincy when Danny McGuire suffered knee damage against Warrington in First Utility Super League round one last week.
“They had a good win last weekend and they’ll see Leeds coming to their home ground as another stepping stone for them to improve again.
“But we need to improve. Losing somebody like Magsy this early is disappointing, but we just have to move on. We need a good performance. We need to build on what we did against Warrington and the week after is the big game, so we have to be good.”
Leeds meet North Queensland Cowboys in their attempt to win a fourth world title a week tomorrow and Burrow added: “We don’t want to go into the World Club Challenge on two defeats.
“We’ll be trying our best not to do that, but we know we have to be good in all areas. There are no excuses.”
Rhinos lost at Widnes last year, but Burrow reckons the Cheshire side’s artificial surface will suit them, especially at this stage of the season.
“I actually prefer going there at this time of year, rather than playing on a muddy pitch,” he said.
“I saw the Wigan pitch when they played Catalans and I’d rather play on a 4g. I am looking forward to it personally and hopefully it will be a dry track for the lads.”
With McGuire sidelined and hooker Beau Falloon still out with a broken toe, 19-year-old Jordan Lilley is likely to retain his place in Leeds’ 17.
He came on out of position at hooker last week, with Burrow moving to scrum-half. Tomorrow could be Lilley’s sixth senior game and he has started only once so far, but Burrow coached him for Rhinos’ under-16s and insisted: “Jordan is very impressive.
“When I coached him there were signs he could be a potential superstar and he has had an influence on the team already.
“He has slotted into the first team no problem and has shown his toughness and his control.
“For a young lad coming into the halves – and I have done it myself – it is tough to boss these older lads about.
“But is it not a problem for him and he is getting better and better every game.
“His attitude is first class and he has got everything that will set him up for a great career.”
McGuire’s injury could give Lilley an extended run in the team and Burrow – the oldest player in tomorrow’s squad, at 33 – added: “That’s how I got my chance, from an injury-hit year.
“It was the same for Danny. People take these opportunities and I am sure if he gets a run of games together it will be hard to leave him out of the first team squad.
“That is what he has got to do, that’s his aim.
“He is a talented lad and he is only going to get better, but if he can make an impact now it will set him in good stead for the rest of the season.”
With McGuire out Burrow may get a series of games in his favoured scrum-half role, but the captain stressed: “Whatever position I am playing in and whatever time I am playing, I will try and do what I can.
“It is an honour to be captain, but I am just filling in for Danny while he is out.”