Leeds coach Brian McDermott admits his players will be driven by the prospect of revenge when they take on Manly Sea Eagles in the Heinz Big Soup World Club Challenge at Headingley.
The Rhinos are aiming to equal the record of Wigan and Bradford in claiming the prestigious title for the third time but they are also in danger of suffering a third consecutive defeat.
Victorious over Canterbury Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm in 2005 and 2008, they lost to Manly three years ago and in 2010 Melbourne got their revenge.
The current Rhinos squad contains 12 members of the side that went down 28-20 to the Sea Eagles and McDermott, who is taking charge of his first World Club Challenge, reveals that defeat still rankles.
“It’s huge,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to it. The prize on offer is to be called world champions.
“Pretty much straight after the Grand Final, attention started turning to the World Club Challenge.
“Leeds have got history in it. The last time they played in one against Manly they lost so I do know they are talking about it.
“There are some individual players who will use it as motivation. As staff and officials, we won’t be using it but I do know it will have a bearing on people’s desire to get the job done.”
Although NRL outfits have won the last three world title clashes, English clubs still lead 11-6 overall, going back to Manly’s 8-2 defeat by Wigan in 1987.
With English clubs having home advantage in all but one of those 17 meetings, the statistics are not surprising and the NRL champions will once more have to adjust to both the weather and jetlag, having left an Australia summer just a week ago.
McDermott believes the Australians can overcome those hurdles but accepts his side will be more battle-hardened, having played two Super League matches so far, against a side facing their first competitive match since October’s Grand Final.
“The fact that we’ve had to use our shoulders and defend our tryline and get through that blowy period of a game, will give us an advantage,” he said. “I’m wary of saying how much.
“For a one-off game, I can’t see it disrupting their preparation too much.
“They’re at the back end of pre-season now and I’m sure they will have played an in-house game or simulated some game-time situations in training.
“Should we get the job done, I won’t be affording them too much in terms of lack of preparation. There is no doubt they will be ready.”
Leeds go into the game on the back of a defeat but McDermott, a World Club Challenge winner with Bradford in 2002, does not believe tomorrow’s showdown was a contributory factor behind their loss to Wigan.
“I’ve been asked if it’s been a distraction but, on the contrary, I’d say it’s actually given us a focus,” he said. “We wanted to be really good for the first two rounds.
“We’d have rather played better than we did on Saturday night. There were some areas where we weren’t great.
“This week we’ll have to get to a very decent level of intensity. We’ll have to defend and defend and defend.”
After playing all their four previous World Club Challenge matches at Elland Road, the Rhinos will have the additional advantage of being on home soil at Headingley, where the club are expecting a 21,000 full house.