PROP-FORWARD Kylie Leuluai is expecting a backlash when Leeds Rhinos face London Broncos at Twickenham Stoop tonight.
London are bottom of Super League, with just three wins to their credit and were crushed 70-0 by Wigan Warriors in a Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final five days ago.
But Leuluai said that makes an already awkward task even tougher for fourth-placed Leeds.
All the pressure is on the defending champions and Leuluai warned: “It’s a tough one.
“Going to London itself is quite tough, you deal with the travel and the temperature down there – apparently it’s going to be 30 degrees.
“Then you have to deal with them not doing so well. You don’t want to turn up complacent and taking them lightly, so it is more about us being mentally switched on and ready to go.”
Leuluai said Rhinos have put London’s result last week out of their minds.
“You have to,” he added. “What they will be looking at is not only redemption, but they are playing us and they’ll want a big game.
“If I was in their team I’d be trying to take it out on us. They are playing for pride now. Every sportsman has pride, it makes you play well and that’s what I expect them to do.”
A win tonight would see Rhinos close to within two points of third-placed Warrington Wolves, who visit Castleford Tigers on Sunday.
“We’ve just got to play well,” Leuluai said. “If you play well, you’re going to win.
“We don’t have the Challenge Cup to worry about so we are just trying to get to the play-offs in good stead.
“We just want to improve in the areas that need fixing up and we need to get players back on board too, with the injuries we’ve had.”
Leuluai made his comeback against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats six days ago, after missing five games due to a knee problem.
He returned ahead of schedule, but said: “I wasn’t too sure if I was going to play.
“I ended up getting clearance on Wednesday, trained Thursday and played Friday.
“The lungs were a bit juicy, but other than that I was just happy that I escaped injury and the knee was okay.
“I just want to get back on track with my fitness and get some solid performances in.
“Last week was all about getting through the game and getting some confidence. This week I want a big game.”
The 35-year-old front-rower reckons it will take him a week or two to get fully back into his stride.
“It’ll take me at least another game to get back up to where I want to be,” he said.
“Maybe longer, maybe three weeks. I had five weeks without being able to do running at all and it’s a big jump.
“The knee is fine now, it’s probably not 100 per cent, but I’d say it’s 85 per cent, which is good enough.”
Meanwhile, boss Brian McDermott has paid tribute to Leeds and England captain Kevin Sinfield, who will make his 500th career appearance tonight.
Sinfield’s total includes 456 games for Leeds, 398 of those in Super League and he will be the first player to record 500 matches entirely in the summer era.
McDermott said: “I am a very lucky coach when I’ve got people like Kev in my team.
“He is a complete professional. To do 500 games as a half-back is incredibly hard.
“He has got a few more years in him yet, so it’s scary how many games he might play.”
Rhinos will wear black armbands tonight as a mark of respect for former coach Graham Murray, who died on Sunday, aged 58.
London were the opposition when Murray masterminded Rhinos’ last Challenge Cup final triumph, in 1999.
McDermott admitted tonight will be an emotional occasion and he added: “Kev and Jamie Jones-Buchanan played under Graham and many at the club have spoken about the lasting legacy he has left at the Rhinos.”