Champions Leeds Rhinos should be “nervous” about Sunday’s trip to St Helens, according to their coach.
Brian McDermott reckons a sense of danger will bring the best out of his team as they aim to heap more misery on their struggling rivals.
The teams – Grand Finalists in four of the last five seasons – are in contrasting form, with Rhinos on a five match winning streak in all competitions, while Saints haven’t won in that time.
Leeds hammered Salford City Reds 56-16 eight days ago, 24 hours before Saints were beaten 12-8 at Bradford Bulls.
But McDermott stressed Rhinos aren’t yet playing at the top of their game and he believes Saints aren’t far from getting their campaign on track.
“There’s been things we have been wanting to fix and each Monday morning we’ve been showing the players footage of things we need to improve and need to keep working on,” McDermott said.
“This week we showed them things we did really well in the last game and we showed them why things are happening for us, but we also showed them that we haven’t got enough right just yet.
“We are not the perfect team and we’re not close to it all.
We have got to make sure we go to Saints nervous that we are going to get beaten.
“We’ve got to be like that, because that’s when it brings the best out in a Leeds team, when they are wary of the opposition. We are not over-confident and certainly not thinking we’ve got everything covered.”
Saints won their opening two games against London Broncos and Salford, drew at Hull KR and then lost to Catalan Dragons, Huddersfield Giants, Hull and Bradford, a run which cost coach Royce Simmons his job.
But McDermott insisted tomorrow’s foes are as dangerous as they have ever been.
“I am not buying into the theory Saints are in crisis,” the Leeds boss warned. “They are a quality team, with top-class players.
“I heard Paul Wellens speak after the Bradford game and he made it clear they are all working hard, they are doing their best and I should imagine they are all doing extras.
“They don’t look unfit, it’s just that there are one or two things that aren’t right – and they can be fixed up really easily.
“It’s just whether it happens on the night. It’s not about Royce being sacked at all, it’s about a team that’s not in form and that can turn around easily.”
Highly-rated 18-year-old stand-off/loose-forward Stevie Ward is set to make his Rhinos debut tomorrow, off the substitutes’ bench.
The England academy prospect has been a stand-out for Rhinos under-20s this year and will become the second youngster to graduate into the first team this year, after hooker Liam Hood.
Ward played junior rugby for Churwell Chiefs and Hunslet Warriors and is studying for three ‘A’ Levels at Woodkirk High School.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said of tomorrow’s clash. “Saints will be up for this game because of everything that’s happened to them so far this season.
“We will go there looking to get the job done, but we know it’s going to be very tough.”