BRiNG IT on is in-form forward Mitch Achurch’s attitude towards Leeds Rhinos’ toughest spell of the season so far.
Having just got through the busy Easter period, Rhinos face Wigan Warriors twice, Castleford Tigers, Hull and Warrington Wolves over the next five weeks.
Wigan – the Super League and Challenge Cup holders – are first up at Headingley Carnegie tonight, but Achurch insisted: “We are looking forward to it.
“Sometimes the games we are expected to win are the more nervous ones.
“When you come up against a good side you know everyone’s ready to test themselves, so why not put them all together and get it out of the way?”
Victory tonight would see Rhinos regain top spot in First Utility Super League from St Helens, who beat London Broncos last night.
But Wigan – who are on an eight-match winning run – will move level on points with Rhinos with a game in hand if they claim the spoils.
Wigan lost two of their first three league matches, as well as suffering a World Club Challenge defeat to Sydney Roosters, but have hit some impressive form since then.
Achurch observed: “They weren’t the Wigan we are all used to at the beginning of the season.
“But we didn’t take too much notice of their poor results at the beginning of the year, because we knew it was going to take a while for their new team to gel.
“Obviously they have got good systems, with everyone coming through at Wigan and the last few weeks have started to show they are ready to compete again.
“I think they are starting to find some form at the right time for themselves, coming up against us. We are ready to take on the best Wigan side they can throw at us and hopefully we can get over the top of them.
“I have never been in a team that has been at the top of the table. I thought there might be a bit of confidence about it, but this side are used to success so much that everyone here is more determined to stay at the top now we’ve been there.
“It is pretty humbling to be part of it. You come to training and we could have our heads in the clouds a little bit, but everyone’s ready to knuckle down and rip in at training.
“We are number one at the moment and we don’t want to lose that tag, so onwards and upwards.”
The next five league matches will go a long way towards deciding where Rhinos finish on the table.
After that they face Leigh Centurions at home in a Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Achurch insisted thoughts of Wembley have been put on hold for the next month.
The draw offers Rhinos a golden chance of progressing into August’s semi-finals, but Achurch said: “The last eight teams would all be tough to beat, no matter where we played or whatever.
“But we will put that out of our minds for now and focus on this tough period. At the moment being number one, at the top of the table, is the most important thing.
“We are going to look at getting through this tough period, over the next four or five weeks, as best we can.”
This is Achurch’s second season at Leeds and after an initial campaign disrupted by injury, he reckons he is beginning to find his feet.
He said: “I have found my way into the team. It is through missing a few players – Jonesy (Jamie Jones-Buchanan) is not with us at the moment and I stepped in and did a job for us that first week against Wakefield.
“The coaching staff have got right behind me and they are trusting me a bit more in the big games.
“Once I’ve gained confidence from the rest of the players and the coaching staff, feeling I am doing a good job and wanting to leave me out there, it gives me a bit of confidence in myself.
“The last few weeks have been good for me. As long as I don’t take a backwards step and everyone else is doing their job, I’ll just keep trying to do my job as best as I can and hopefully I’ll get better and better.
“Every time I go on the field I look at the negatives and the positives.
“There’s still too many negatives in my game, but the more I am around here the more I am going to get rid of them.
“Hopefully there’s a lot better to come and being on the field makes it easier to find some form. It is coming and hopefully it will come sooner than later.
Achurch added: “I’ve settled in now and I think I’ve found my niche in the team. I am playing to my strengths and I am enjoying myself off the field as well.
“I am living with Brad Singleton and in a few weeks’ time I’ll be moving in with Zak Hardaker and Chris Clarkson as well.
“There’ll be the four of us in the one house. We all get along really well, we are having a bit of fun off the field and it’s carrying on onto the pitch.”