Leeds Rhinos: Versatile Chris aims to impress

Chris Clarkson
Chris Clarkson
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CHRIS CLARKSON is hoping his versatility will make him an asset to Leeds Rhinos over the next few months.

CHRIS CLARKSON is hoping his versatility will make him an asset to Leeds Rhinos over the next few months.

Clarkson started at hooker for the first time in his career – despite being named in the second-row – during Leeds’ 28-12 win over Wigan Warriors in First Utility Super League last Friday.

He has now played in all the forward roles at some stage, as well as wing and centre during his early days in the senior side four years ago.

“Back-row is my favourite position,” he said. “I play loose-forward and a bit of prop, but anywhere he (coach Brian McDermott) wants to play me, I can do a job there.

“I was quite surprised when Brian asked me to play hooker. He asked me to have a serious think about it and I did.

“I thought I could do a decent job there. I am pretty confident in myself, I was basically just in the middle defending and then distributing the ball about.

“I enjoyed it. I trained there on Wednesday and Thursday and it went all right and I was pretty pleased with how it went in the game.

“There weren’t too many scary balls that I gave. I am quite confident in my passing ability, so I’ll see where I am this week when we play Castleford.”

The absence of hookers Rob Burrow (broken collarbone) and Paul Aiton (ill) forced Clarkson’s positional switch.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan is also out long-term, but Clarkson stressed: “I think the squad is strong enough to cope and as long as we don’t get too many injuries we will be all right.

“We have got a few young lads waiting in the wings and they will do a good job if and when needed – and Andy Yates is not too far off.

“It is disappointing Rob is going to be out for a few weeks, but hopefully he gets back soon.”

Of his form this year Clarkson – who is under contract to the end of next year – said: “I have played the last five now and I am pretty happy how I went.

“I am looking forward to what’s to come. The more time you get on the field the better you are going to be and the more you’re going to improve the things you need to improve on.

“I am enjoying my rugby at the minute and I am happy with it. The last couple of years probably haven’t been as enjoyable, but it is going well now. I think I plateaued a bit at the end of 2012-13. In pre-season and the start of this season I worked on a few things and I feel as though I am improving now and that is getting me some game time.”

Rhinos will travel to Castleford in two days’ time as league leaders and Clarkson added: “We are going great at the minute.

“We are doing some things we’ve worked on and we wanted to improve on from last year and it’s showing. Everybody is working hard for each other and wants to play together.

“We are all working hard for the mate next to you, which is good. You’d be stupid not to want to be part of that.

“I think everybody wants to be part of this team at the minute. It is a great team environment, everybody’s enjoying it and hopefully we can keep going.”

Tigers were pipped 29-28 at Huddersfield Giants two days ago, but are third in the table and have lost only three times this year.

Clarkson said: “Cas are going well and it will be very tough. But we have had a couple of tough games over the last few weeks, so we are battle-hardened.

“The next six or seven weeks will all be tough games, because we’ve got some decent teams to play. We know it will be tough at Cas, but we are pretty confident with our defence at the minute. It is going well and we are all working hard for each other, so there’s no reason why we can’t do that this week.”

Hooker Daryl Clark is likely to be one of Tigers’ dangermen in two days’ time.

Clarkson said: “I’ve played with him at England Knights. He is pretty nippy and he’s a good player, he’s pretty tough and he can run all day.

“If I am playing nine – I don’t know whether I am or not – it will be pretty tough against him.

“But I am just happy to be on the field doing a job and if I am playing well, that’s great. I can only get better each week.”

McDermott and Cas coach Daryl Powell are set to name their initial 19-man squads today.

If Leeds prop Ryan Bailey is selected it will be his 300th games for the club.

Bailey made his debut against Wakefield in June, 2002 and has made 184 starts, with another 115 appearances off the bench.

Lewis Cook could earn his first England cap this week.

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